Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Yaz Saeidi1
A farewell and thank you to Lou Reed
I’m sure Lou Reed would disapprove entirely of me writing a gushing post about him in his passing. In fact, I’m a journalist – so I’m sure he’d disapprove of me altogether anyway. But his music has had such a profound effect on me that I couldn’t not write something about him today. For that, I am sorry.
I remember well the first time I heard the Velvet Underground. I was a wide-eyed 17 year old sat in a classroom when I’m Waiting For The Man started playing. “What’s THIS?!” I asked my teacher, baffled that my classmates sat unstirred as the coolest fucking thing I’d ever heard was being fed into all of our ears. “It’s from The Velvet Underground & Nico album” he told me, as I hurriedly made a note of it, and promptly took myself to the library to find this album.
That striking Warhol artwork! I was captivated before even listening. When I’d finally got it home and pressed play – and those pure, beautiful first chords of Sunday Morning struck out – being the slightly precocious 17 year old that I was, I felt the need to immerse myself fully into it. I shut the door, turned off the light and put on my headphones. It was like an outer body experience. It was insane. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, and yet I could hear so clearly how it influenced so many of my other favourite bands. The album quickly became my happy place, and has remained just that to this day. In hindsight it seems a bit odd that an album exploring hard drugs and S&M in seedy New York would resonate with me so strongly in my suburban Stafford bedroom but they firmly became one of my favourite bands. I went out and bought the rest of the albums The Velvet Underground had to offer.
I went away to uni, and spent much of fresher’s week forming strong new friendships discussing which of those said albums was their best. At the pub, in lecture theatres, on the bus – anywhere anyone would listen. I couldn’t believe that someone who could make songs as avant-garde as Sister Ray, as mental as The Gift, as dark as Venus In Furs and as druggy as Heroin could also write songs as beautiful as Pale Blue Eyes and I’ll Be Your Mirror. That songs as difficult as Black Angel Death Song and as radio-friendly as Who Loves The Sun could exist in the same band’s back catalogue blew my mind.
He brought the two together in his solo career, with the controversial lyrics of Walk On The Wild Side being enveloped in the tuneful melodies which kept conservative broadcasters blissfully unaware of what they were playing exactly. The man was a genius.
It’s why when he appeared with Gorillaz at Glastonbury I found myself hyperventilating at the mere thought of sharing a field with him . That night, he exuded so much cool that I thought my head was going to explode. Which is how his music has always made me feel.
Goodbye Lou, thank you for splitting my mind open, time and time again.
Read Ben’s post on Lou Reed here.