My Bookshelf

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed: In Memoriam

What can you say about an icon who died?

I couldn't resist ripping off the opening line from Love Story, because Lou Reed's death marked the end of the affair for me. I fell in love with the guy (there's no other word for it) when I picked up Transformer after being stunned by Walk On The Wild Side in 1972. I started my rock band The Spoiler in 1974, and it damn near became a Reed tribute band until I gave Broadway Turk Superstar  his shot onstage when I came out of Lou's spell. After my days as a NYC punk rocker ended, Rock and Roll Animal was still one of my Top Ten faves as the greatest track-for-track guitar album of all time. Was it any wonder that when BT Superstar resurrected The Spoiler in KC MO in 2005, my entire guitar style was influenced by Lou's subway sound?

There's not a single survivor of the Punk Revolution of the 70's who doesn't list Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground as their greatest musical influence. Although Reed, co-founder John Cale and Sterling Morrison were all classically trained, they institutionalized minimalism in rock by churning out two and three-chord wonders that were some of the most memorable songs in the history of the genre. His lyrics were immortal, weaving stories about the gutters, alleys and shooting galleries of NYC (we're talking hypodermics), and glorifying homos back when they lived in fear of being tarred and feathered. Though a commercial failure, almost every major authority in rock includes their anthologies among the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time.  

In my estimation. Lou hit his peak with Rock and Roll Animal. Although appearing emaciated onstage from meth addiction, his performances along with his guitar team of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner were the best of his career. It earned him the lifelong adulation of rock critic Lester Bangs, whose explosive interviews with Reed catapulted him into international notoriety. His experimental work in rock opera (Berlin) and noise music (Metal Machine Music) increased his legend throughout Europe. Commercial success finally came with Coney Island Baby, and his innovative rap style was unveiled in Street Hassle. He rode the waves of success into the Grunge Era of the 90's, where once again he was hailed by the grunge rockers as one of their greatest influences. He was still creating music into the 21st Century, having collaborated with Metallica on their album Lulu in 2011.  

Losing him at the ripe old age (well, maybe not so these days) of 71 gives us the satisfaction of knowing that he lived a fruitful and fulfilled life. I just hope he accepted Christ before he died. For sure, he outlived not only many of his contemporaries but a Who's Who list of worshippers who came after him (The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Stiv Bators, to name a few). At this stage of my life, with my Spoiler career just about over, I can say that Papa Lou met me at the gate, gave me a guided tour and walked me to the door.

Farewell, Lou. There are few who matter who wouldn't admit you were one of the greatest of all time.

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