Monday, October 28, 2013

Magic and Loss

Lou Reed's music, both as a singer/songwriter for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, changed my life and perception of what music was, is and can be.  Maybe Reed the person could be a little off-putting at times, but I think it's because he didn't suffer fools gladly and that for him, rock n' roll music, at least his version of it, should be taken as serious art.  There's a quote where he says something like one chord is fine but by three chords you're starting to make jazz.  Tongue in cheek, obviously, but indicating that being serious about art didn't necessarily mean being overly complex.  He was making full-on rock and roll music.  It may be stretching things a bit, but I think there's something of Lou Reed's aesthetic here on LoS.  Mix "high" and "low" vernacular, don't be afraid to be serious, don't be afraid to look goofy.  Present it correctly and people will in fact appreciate poetry.... 

That's already more than I wanted to say; Reed's music soundtrack to my life.  Dip into his oeuvre at any point and you'll discover songs that are angry, funny, wistful, caustic, tender....and very good.

To me the man was an artist and a poet in the guise of a rock and roll front man.  Or rather, he made it possible for the rock and roll front man to be taken seriously as an artist.  There were missteps and pretentiousness in his career, but hell, that always happens when you're learning in public and you put your balls to the wall for the world to see.

I was hoping for a new album, but alas, that is not to be, though there could always be some posthumous stuff he'd been working on since his last album in 2009.  According to his doctor, Reed was doing t'ai chi an hour before his death, trying to stay strong, trying to fight.  To me this is an appropriate image of the man as an artist as well.  He never rested on his laurels, never exploited his one true "hit" song.  He kept on changing until the end and his last albums are, with exception of Metal Machine Music, the most experimental of his career.  For me, that's a good thing.  I'll even give Lulu another chance.  Remember those missteps I spoke about?  But, to mangle something he once said, "bad" Lou Reed is infinitely better than most of what you'll hear on the radio, hands down.  Plus, Sister Ray makes up for everything!

For a proper obituary, check out the New York Times.  It seems appropriate....

Update.  Those two quotes, to be more precise:
  •  "One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz."
  •  “My bullshit is worth more than other people’s diamonds.”


  1. Yes, his music's always meant a lot to me, too, stuck with me a lot longer than many others. I've bought hundreds of albums, but I'm pretty certain that I have more of his albums than anyone else, except possibly Dylan.

    You're definitely more into his later stuff than I am, though. I should give it another go.

    1. Well, I really do prefer his first solo albums, but New York is really great and funny and of course, the last two I mentioned are also very cool. I can't think of any figure with such widespread acclaim that also had such an important personal impact. Maybe Bowie. Some of those later solo albums--Magic and Loss, Set the Twilight Reeling are inseparable from a certain period of my life, so my appraisal is not entirely objective. I listened to those two albums driving countless miles with Dr. J for example. His music, his presence via the voice, was simply put, a major part of my life. It's almost beside the point if the music is "good" or not, if you get me! I didn't realize you were also such a fan though....more VU I'm guessing?


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