Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

Lou Reed is dead.” I saw the news where everybody else saw it — so-called “social media” — and read it aloud. I was surprised by the catch in my voice, the sudden blurriness of vision.

My wife heard it too. “Oh no!”

“Who's Lou Reed?” asked my daughter.

“A rock 'n' roll singer,” said my wife. “When I first met your father, Lou Reed was the artist I most associated with him.”

Yes, that was it — exactly. She and I met between New York (w) and Magic & Loss (w)at a point when I was completely taken with Lou Reed.

1991: Yours Truly, taking the adulation juuuuust a little too far.

I'd heard “Walk On The Wild Side” of course, but New York was my first real exposure to Reed. “Busload of Faith” closed an otherwise forgettable movie — I stayed in my seat to catch his name in the end-credits scroll, and on the strength of that one track went ahead and purchased the CD.

That album won me, heart and soul. It catalogued and put into perspective all the unsettling noises I heard in the hallways of my crappy apartment building. It catalogued everything I was afraid of and enraged by. And more than anything else to date, it perfectly catalogued the vague intellectual apprehensions that were forming in the tension between my faith and doubts — or rather, “Faith and Doubt.”

Following that up with the magisterial Magic & Loss only deepened my love for the man and his music. I had a lot of catching up to do, and he obliged me with Between Thought & Expression — the book, and the boxed set.

And then, of course, I came to realize I wasn't completely on-board for the whole of the enterprise. Some of the material was, if you pondered it for any length of time, downright terrifying. Some of it was tedious. “Unpleasant” was a term that applied often enough to keep me from hitting “replay.”

But “Uninteresting”? Never.

If you aspired to follow him, he was likely to shake you off — sooner, rather than later. This middle-class, middle-aged listener's response to the bulk of Lou Reed's ouevre is, “Mm — more your bag than mine, Lou. But good on you, man.” The thing is, somewhere in that massive catalogue is a piece, an album, a single line or image that absolutely nails it for the listener — any listener.

Lou Reed exuded the sense that there wasn't anything he wouldn't risk for the sake of his art. Although the risks he took were often so much greater than those of his compatriots, I'm not sure that's the final truth of the man. He also exuded the sense that he could be perfectly candid — but here, too, I'm unsure. The bulk of his candour, it seems to me, is concerned with other lives, and the risks he saw others taking.

At some point you heard him being candid about you — and you either loved him or hated him for it. Or both.

A few favourite Lou links: this 1992 interview, with Neil Gaiman, is rather charming. Also, Jian Ghomeshi's recent radio interview is here in its entirety, and the un-aired tech set-up segment in the first four minutes is a rare treat. And of course there are heaps of mediocre tributes besides my own, but really — how can hacks like us possibly top the legendarily tempestuous back-and-forth between Lou Reed and Lester Bangs? We can only link, in awe.

Finally, here is Lou's website — dude took a good picture right to the end.


DarkoV said...

Great piece, Darrell, and thanks for the links.

Just inquiring about that last line, "...dude took a good picture right to the end." Was that a deliberate poke in his (current) non-Earthly direction so that he can be pissed off from the Great Beyond? I'd be careful about walking near any overhanging roofs...

Darrell Reimer said...

You don't think he looks fine in that shot? Watch those overhanging roofs yerself, buddy!