Friday, November 22, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Lou Reed

It has been disappointing of late to see rock musicians that have impacted my life die off.  I’m not referring to the fabulous career move of dying young and beautiful in tragic fashion like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, or Tupac.  For example, has anyone ever managed their show business career more gracefully than Jim Morrison?  How did his estate rid the planet of three years’ worth of “fat Jim with beard pissing in his overalls” pictures?  He is frozen in 1967 in perfectly fitting leather pants.  He truly is the Lizard King.  He can do anything.

The thing that is so disarming is that people that I first listened to somewhat close to their artistic prime are dying of old age maladies.  If that isn’t a warning bell for me, I don’t know what else is.  “Hey!  What do you mean Ray Mazerek died!  He wasn’t that old.  He just produced all those edgy punk bands like X!  What?  Those guys in X are in their late 50s now?  Really?.....Manzerek was 74?   Oh fuck….”  For some reason I still have in my mind that the Rolling Stones are the “old” band.  Keith Richards has been “old” ever since I got a vinyl copy of Hot Rocks when he was probably 36.  That has been a constant.  If Keith died tomorrow, something which has been openly discussed since 1969, it wouldn’t be shocking.  So what is it that surprised me about Lou Reed’s death?  He was a 71 year old man that had been an alcoholic, heroin addict, and speed freak.  Maybe it’s that he’s looked leathery and cranky since I first started listening to him in the early 80s.  Maybe I haven’t really noticed that 14 years have passed since his amazing “New York” record.  I better start paying closer attention.

Let’s talk about Lou Reed for a moment.  Lou Reed is a challenging recording artist.  He took chances, and frankly a great many of them failed.  He was one of those name checked artists that more people seem to like the idea of than their actual output.  You know those people that look like a thrift store barfed on them, always look disinterested/stoned and live in coffee shops without any visible means of support?  “Yeah… I love Lou Reed.  Transformer is great.  Um… I think my older brother had Rock N Roll Animal.  Yeah…  I love Lou Reed.”  They are “big fans” of Lou Reed in the same way they are “big fans” of Johnny Cash because they know Folsom Prison Blues and saw the “Hurt” video once. 

Lou is an enigma.  He has a free pass because of the music he made in his early twenties with the Velvet Underground.  I am assuming if you are reading this, you must have those records.  If you don’t, this should be a major point of embarrassment, and you should not let anyone know this about you.  Quietly secure all the Velvet Underground material.  It is one of the few things on the planet that lives up to the hype.  Because of those records, no one is allowed to say “I have no idea what most of Lou’s records sound like.  I bought one once and hated it.  I only like “Sweet Jane” and “Walk On The Wild Side” because I heard them on the radio a million times.  I saw “Mistrial” in most cutout bins though the 1990s though…”

After Lou jettisoned out of the Velvet Underground to no fanfare whatsoever, he made a million records.  Almost no one I know has hardly any of them, and I know a lot of record nerds.  I, on the other hand,  have almost all of them.  This is either a testament to my loyalty to his artistic statement, or my obsessive nature.  Note, I did not get duped by the Metal Machine Music farce, or buy that horrible Metallica collaboration.  Hell, even I have my limits.  But I do have “The Bells”, “Legendary Hearts”, and even “Ecstacy”.  I even have those live records from the last 15 years, some of which are really good.  Here’s the thing about Lou Reed.  He did what he wanted to do with only the smallest regard for the audience.  He figured he was smarter than the masses, and fuck ‘em if they didn’t get it.  At least, that’s how I saw it.  His one real hit, “Walk On The Wild Side” was a fluke.  I don’t know if he could have catered to the public even if that was his goal.  It was Lou’s trip, and you could go on it if you were interested.  Me?  I was interested. 

Lou’s records are meant to be listened to as albums for the most part.  He really adhered to that format.  The problem with that is that there are a bunch of clunker albums with one or two really good tracks.  There are also so many repackages it’ll make your head spin.  Thanks to our good friends at itunes, it is possible to put together a retrospective that will probably determine if you personally need to track down his catalogue for yourself.  Take a chance.  Try these out…

1)       Wild Child- “Lou Reed”

2)      Walk On The Wild Side- “Transformer”

3)      Perfect Day-“Transformer”

4)      “Hangin’ Round (acoustic demo)- “Transformer”

5)      “Gimme Some Good Times”- Street Hassle

6)      “Street Hassle”- Street Hassle

7)      Underneath the Bottle- “The Blue Mask”

8)      The Blue Mask- “The Blue Mask”

9)      Legendary Hearts- “Legendary Hearts”

10)   Turn To Me- “New Sensations”

11)   Romeo Had Juliette- “New York”

12)   Sword of Damocles- “Magic and Loss”

13)   All Tomorrow’s Parties- “Animal Serenade”       

Now, does anyone know how Keith is feeling?  Is he OK?


At November 24, 2013 at 11:22:00 PM EST , Blogger AZ said...

Hear, hear.


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