Oct 282013


I first became aware of Lou Reed when I was 13 or so, the year I finally dipped into FM rock radio after a childhood of scratchy 45s; my first 2 dozen LPs by the likes of The Beatles, The Band, Joe Cocker, and Traffic; AM radio; and the latest TSOP album-length cuts hot off Philadelphia’s FM soul station, WDAS. Rock radio on the FM dial in 1976 wasn’t all the cool, older kids at my school made it out to be. I got to hear cuts from Who’s Next for the first time and more Mick Taylor-era Stones than I’d ever heard before on AM radio—and there Beatles A to Z weekends galore—but I had to wait through a bunch of stoopid blooz-rock that typically bored me once songs ran past the 3-minute mark: Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers…not to mention the often perplexing genre known as progressive rock. Jethro Tull slotted in between all these uncomfortable sounds. Worse yet, FM rock in Philadelphia circa 1976 featured way more Jackson Browne and Eagles than I could stomach. Often I figured, The hell with trying to impress the cool kids! and flipped back to the comforting AM sounds of The Spinners and Elton John.

One long guitar-driven song that occasionally hit the airwaves on WMMR and WIOQ at that time was the Rock ‘n Roll Animal version of “Sweet Jane.” I already knew and loved “Walk on the Wild Side,” which somehow got played on AM radio when I was a preteen, but Lou Reed was just a name back then. The live version of “Sweet Jane,” with its swirling, fuzzed-out guitar intro followed by Reed’s strange, talk-sung, hectoring vocals and fatalistic lyrics always made me reach for the dial, the VOLUME dial. I cranked it up and marveled at the crunch Reed and his band produced. While the cool kids were slobbering over the quintuple-guitar solos of bands playing California Jam, I wanted to know more about the racket that this Lou Reed character was making. “Sweet Jane” (the live version), long intro solo and all, was the kind of song worth sticking out a friggin’ Foreigner song in hopes of hearing. The hairs stood up on my neck every time Reed sang, “Some people like to go out dancing/There’s other people like us, we gotta work.” This was the language I heard from my hard-working Mom after another long day’s work. This was way more true to the language in my home than songs about rockin’ and rollin’ all night, as was that “life is just to die” line that caps off “Sweet Jane.” Many a Saturday and Sunday morning in my house growing up was centered around such certain thoughts, as my Mom struggled to get out of bed and face another lonely day.

Not really the "best of," but a boy's got to start somewhere.

Not really the “best of,” but a boy’s got to start somewhere.

After a few months of waiting for “Sweet Jane” to play, I finally took matters into my own hands, buying the Rock ‘n Roll Animal album as well as a cheapo “best of” album. The “best of” album included “Walk on the Wild Side,” of course, as well as a bunch of songs that were really strange to my ears. “Satellite of Love” sounded familiar, like a David Bowie or Mott the Hoople song I would have already known, but some of the awkward songs stuck out, stuff like “How Do You Think It Feels,” which dealt with really personal, depressing stuff in a stilted musical arrangement. Like some of those lines from “Sweet Jane,” the mood of the song rang surprisingly true to the mood that sometimes pervaded my house. “Wild Child” was an easy release, like a cheap follow-up to “Walk on the Wild Side.” Some of the other songs were unlistenable for me then and now. From the beginning I would come to terms that Lou Reed had an amazing propensity to turn out absolute crap.

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May 162013

I’ve spent a lot of time lurking, learning, trying to get a feel of how it works around here. First, allow me to applaud the lot of you. How do y’all come up with this “stuff?” I was reading Mr. Moderator’s post from last week about Lou Reed‘s “Satellite of Love” and how the structure “draws me in,” sumthin’ er rather. It’s fine post indeed, with all the usual expected metaphors and topical references, and the humor of course.

Look, I don’t care for Lou Reed… OK? I mean, don’t really know much about the guy either, admittedly. “And the colored girls sing…,” Velvet Underground, that’s it. I don’t much like his music or how he looks or the way he doesn’t really sing sing. I’m not interested in past or his future, his place in history or who he influences, and so on. I’m not mad him either, but it all just seems a little half-assed to me. I don’t think I’ve ever even met a Lou Reed fan.

But whatever… I was going to read the thread anyway, I knew that much, but probably wasn’t going to comment and almost assuredly, wasn’t going to watch any of the posted videos until… Mr. Mod said, “I am always turned on, however, when the band kicks into the Power Rock ending and Lou starts hopping about and making his First-Big-Boy-Goes-Poopy-on-the-Potty faces.” Poopy faces!? I can watch anything for poopy faces. So I did. I clicked on the live footage of “Satellite of Love.” Big Mistake. I should’ve known better.

I’d like to officially add, “I don’t like the way Lou Reed strums his guitar” to my list. And I don’t appreciate for how he holds a pick either. It’s just uncalled for. Can you act like you’ve done this before Lou? It’s unacceptable for someone of his apparent stature and fame to stare at his instrument like that, all rigid in the elbow, making sure he’s fingering chords just right. Sure didn’t sound like it. “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and,” good Lou. I don’t know how much of a rock star he’s supposed to be, but… well, is the out-of-tune guitar thing part his show too? Vincent Price!

So I missed out on the poopy faces.

poopy face

May 092013

I love Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” I love the song, I should say, as performed by Lou Reed. There’s something inherent in its structure that draws me in whenever I hear him perform it. However, to my ears, there’s not a definitive version of the song. My love for the song is due to an accumulation of the song’s structure, or DNA, if you will, and multiple recorded versions I have heard. I don’t know if there’s a song like this for you.

The original, commercially released studio version from Transformer is pretty damn good, but like the rest of that album (beside the exquisite “Walk on the Wild Side”) I feel it suffers ever-so-slightly from David Bowie‘s razor-thin production and Lou’s campy performance. The twinkly piano style is not exactly my cup of tea either. To me, these factors bring an A song down to a B+ level.

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Feb 182013

loureedthewayI’ve been making my way through Neil Young‘s memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. It’s rambling and slow going but not without its charms. Every 10 pages Young turns from the story of his life and music making to what I gather are his main concerns: toy trains, energy-efficient old cars, and some new audio technology that will enable drivers of these green behemoth vehicles to listen to Lou Reed’s latest music as it was meant to sound. Shoot, not even Lou will know how his music is actually meant to sound until he rides around in Neil’s 140-acre ranch in his souped-up 1952 convertible Cadillac with his high-tech audio delivery device cranked to the high heavens.

I love how Young and Reed go on at great lengths about their high-minded audiophile dreams when their legacy has been established with some of the most primitive-sounding records to appear on a major label. T-Bone Burnett is also working on some mind-blowing audio technology that will allow his purposely pristine-yet-primitive, “pure” productions to sound as if they are being broadcast directly from Plato’s Cave. At least Burnett’s recordings actually sound about as accomplished as he would like them to sound, even on our inferior delivery devices.

Someday I expect to run across an old Chuck Berry interview, in which he bemoans the state of late-1950s recording and playback technology.


Oct 262012

With Halloween approaching it seems only right to bring back this sadly underappreciated (or perhaps too-true-for-further-comment) post on Lou Reed’s poor efforts at trick-or-treating as Fonzie.

This post initially appeared 10/31/08.


Think Lou Reed + Rock Fashion and, thanks in large part to his period with The Velvet Underground, you think cool shades, lots of black clothing, maybe that striped shirt he used to wear in the VU, genetically challenged rock hair, and leather. Leather is supposed to be cool and Lou is supposed to be cool. It should be a marriage made in heaven, right?
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