Sunday, 27 October 2013

Goodnight Lou Reed

The news is spreading that Lou Reed died today. That's sad. As ever, there seems to be a rush to be the first to post an RIP message on twitter or facebook. This is a new phenomenon, a trend courtesy of social media allowing us, mere ordinary people, to say our own farewells. I won't say RIP since I don't know whether he'd want to rest in peace. For all I know he'd want to get the biggest amp and turn it up to 11 and scream out random lyrics over endless power chords. Forever.

I first came across Lou Reed when I heard 'Walk On The Wildside' on the Johnnie Walker Radio 1 show when I was 12. It was an odd song, oddly mature for the times and I had no idea what it was about but the sound, those strange words and the lazy bass made it memorable. And those 'coloured girls', the Thunderthighs singing backing vocals. I didn't buy 'Transformer' then but bought it a few years later in about 1976.

In 1978 I saw 'Street Hassle', the 12" single, and bought it. That's when I first heard The Velvet Underground. Two VU songs ('Waiting For The Man' and 'Venus In Furs') were on the 'B' side. That gave me another avenue to explore.

Lou wasn't at the top of my list to buy new music from but I gradually filled out my collection, slowly but surely. There was always something interesting going on in his songs. I don't think I ever bought a Lou Reed album when it first came out, there was always a delay of years. There are already lots of Lou Reed compilation albums out there and I suspect more will appear.

One of my favourite albums is 'New York', full of songs that sum up the city he lived in and that had been one of his long-standing muses. Another is 'Songs For Drella' with John Cale about Andy Warhol. I play both every now and then, probably more than any of his other albums other than 'Transformer'.

Eno is reported to have once commented that everyone who bought the Velvet's first album when it came out went out and started a band. I've no idea if that's true or not but I hope that when people hear the news about Lou they all play a song or two and remember Lou. I also hope that people who've never heard of him look him up and listen for the first time. Maybe that will inspire a new artist to achieve greatness in one of the arts and trace their beginnings back to Lou. That would be good.

Goodnight Lou.

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