It was strange when Lou Reed died. I wasn’t all that sad, concerned, upset; he was 71 – he started cheating death in his 30s. And though he’d been a clean-living portrait of near-enough-to-health for the last 20 years and most of the last 30 years, time was always going to catch up; the indulgences and madness of his earlier years was always there to haunt, to taunt and eventually to take.
Lou Reed was the first artist I developed an intense fascination with; his music – particularly. The personal life, the trivia and bio details too, sure. But it was always about the music. That pulse, those words, the snarl, the drawl, the anger, and attitude.
I went back to The Velvet Underground after knowing Lou Reed.
Even if there was only The Velvet Underground that would have been enough. But it took Lou Reed’s solo career and Bowie’s hero worship to bring the VU to most people.
I know in my heart of hearts there are only a couple of essential Lou Reed albums – but still I’ve collected them all. I spend more time listening to the “bad” Lou Reed albums than the good ones. The good ones are locked up inside my mind and heart; the bad ones reveal more with each listen. You find strange gems; you find a stubborn artist so sure of himself. That might – eventually – have been as much of an act as anything but you have to rate the fact that Reed felt like he always knew what he was doing. Not for him some acoustic remakes with Rick Rubin, not for him a bunch of covers of VU material with artists on the Flying Nun roster or with Sonic Youth or Sebadoh or any of the hundreds of bands that owe a huge part of their existence to the sound they found on a Lou Reed/VU record.
Some days I forget I’m a Lou Reed fan. It’s almost easier to admit again to being one now he’s long gone. It was certainly tough at times being a fan post-Magic and Loss. Each new release was snapped up and then – for the most part – filed. You didn’t need it. You needed to hear it, to have it in the collection. But you didn’t ever actually need it. Or want it. Not really.
Lewis Allen Reed was quite possibly an unhappy man for a large part of his life, but he was happy – always happy – with what “Lou Reed” left this world. And I like that.
Lou Reed’s music wasn’t always great – but often it meant the world to me. Sometimes it meant even more than that. And then I couldn’t play it at all, could hardly ever listen to him.
Now there’s been a bit of loss to even things out. And that reminds me straight away that there was a bit of magic in everything he did.
I think it’s time, finally, to dive back in…