There aren’t too many artists who can bridge the generational divide, or the straight/gay divide, but one of them was Lou Reed.
Lou Reed, the singer-songwriter whose darkly poetic recordings as frontman for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist provided indispensable blueprints for punk, glam, noise rock and nearly every identifiable strain of indie rock, died on October 27. He was 71.
Equally influenced by Chuck Berry and Arthur Rimbaud, Reed’s spiky, provocative lyrics tackled the experiences of drug addicts, transvestites, street hustlers and depressives with a directness and empathy heretofore unheard in American popular music.
I remember playing my Dad’s vinyl records in the basement, with the lights turned down, and thinking that guy gets it, he knows the score. I wanna walk on the wild side!!! I wanna be a poet, a rebel, AND a rock star!!!!! I wanna wear shades at night!!!! I wanna live in Lou’s world!!!!!!
And this, in my own words, is what I remember from a phone conversation with my Dad this afternoon.
DAD — I loved everything he did, but the only time I saw him play was one of the biggest disasters EVER. It was at the Hotel Nelson in Montreal around 1979. He kept people waiting for over an hour, then started playing like he didn’t want to be there, or was too stoned on something to remember the words. I didn’t mind because we had a front row table, and I was just glad to be so close to the living legend.
But then one of the people at my table started HECKLING him!!!! And although Lou didn’t say anything, he spend the entire show glaring at us with eyes as wide as SAUCERS. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.
ME — But not as embarrassed as I was, when you caught me in the basement, prancing around in a leather jacket with shades on, playing “Satellite of Love” on a TENNIS RACQUET!!!!
DAD — Yes, but then if not for that your mother and I wouldn’t have bought you your first electric guitar . . . the next day. *Sigh*
ME — Uh . . . Right. Thanks. I owe Lou EVERYTHING!!!
DAD — And it was STILL one of the BEST shows I ever saw!!!
And he’s right about that eh? It was quite a show. With so many great songs.
Look up everybody, and say thank you.
There’s a new satellite of love in the sky tonight. A wild thing.
And it will shine FOREVER . . .