This teacher in high school told us
all to write out the lyrics to our favourite
song and bring a tape or CD into class
to play the tune. We’d read the lyrics out
and play the song to the class – talk about
why we choose it – what it was about.
She played We Didn’t Start The
Fire by Billy Joel. Made us study each verse.
Then told us it was our turn, pick a song and
I picked Outside by Lou Reed. It’s from
his album Mistrial. Which is so often written about
as one of the great duds of his career – but it was the thing
that got me hooked. I love that album. It was the
gateway for me.
This is Lou Reed in the mid-80s. Singing about New York
streets. So he’s got lines about the world being a mindless
child and how the politics of hate and greed dominate and
and another thing that dominates is mindless repression.
This is Havelock North in the early 1990s and I’m standing
there in my school uniform playing this song and reading
the words and the teacher asks me to stay after. She wonders
if my folks know that I’m listening to things
like that. And I say that it’s highly likely given it’s my
mum’s record and she sat me down to play it to me to show
me the great lyric-writing skills of Lou Reed; one of the masters.
Teacher shrugs, shakes her head, doesn’t believe me. The next
day my mum drives down to the school to tell that teacher Lou
Reed is cooler than Billy Joel could ever be.