Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed - A loss

Lou Reed meant something to me.  He was a big musical touchstone.  I think I own about 5000 albums, I've seen more gigs than I remember, I've played in crappy bands and I've written hundreds of shitty teenage songs.  Most of the shitty teenage songs I wrote were Lou Reed knock offs.

I can't remember exactly how I got into Lou.  For me, Walk on the Wildside was a big childhood song.  I didn't get the the murky subculture lyrics but I loved the sliding baseline and the 'doo da doo' backing vocals.  I can't remember if I heard the banana album first or the cassette of the Jane's Addiction live album with 'rock n roll' on it or if it was a knock off live CD of a New York concert on Christmas day in 1972.  It was one of those things and all of those things and I connected with every fucking one of them.

I wanted to be Lou Reed.  I didn't want to be a bisexual transvestite junkie but I did want to sing intelligent songs with great words in my own fucking voice.  I did try that a bit but I wasn't very good at it so I went into medicine as my fall back plan.

Lou and the Velvet Underground influenced most of the music that ever mattered to me.  Spacemen 3, David Bowie, Jane's Addiction, the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, the Happy Mondays, Nirvana, Nick Cave, Fugazi. The list goes on and on and on.  He brought grit to the modern rock song.  He let a pop song become a documentary on the fucking grime of life.  He sang about shit things in a matter of fact way that didn't really glamorise them.  I realise that he was a bit of a dick at times but he made some great great music.

I was lucky enough to see Reed play at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in September 2000 just before I went to medical school.  He played a 3 hour set.  It was pretty special.

He was 71, he had a liver transplant earlier this year, he took lots of drugs in a crazy way.  He should have been dead some time ago. He hung out with Andy Warhol and he was one of the direct roots of punk.  He was listened to by political dissidents in Poland and by the Mary Chain in East Kilbride.  He made grim music for grim people in grim places but some of it was brilliant and some of it was life affirming.  I would argue that he made popular music into art.

I'm sorry he's gone but I'm glad he was here.