Published on October 29th, 2013 | by Chris Laramee0
Goodnight, Lou Reed
So my cranky uncle Lou (fuck it, that’s the way I felt about him) passed a few days ago. I don’t know what to say, really. He influenced me more than anyone else, ever. His records were weird, cantankerous creations you loved or hated, much like I would imagine the man himself to have been. I don’t have a clue what he was really like though, nor does anyone else who writes these goddamn obits/ tributes.
But a cursory glance through interviews and such could lead one to believe he was a bit, uh, ‘touchy.’ I thought he was hilarious and bang on most of the time. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, this being the chief reason for his reputation as rock’s ‘L’Enfant terrible.’ His massive amphetamine consumption in the 60s and 70s probably didn’t help either. Whatever, fuck it. His music will stand for as long as we do, or until somebody turns out the lights on this little planet. So, tunes then. A few of my faves, anyway. No Velvets here, who I love dearly, but that was more of a band thing.
Kicks – Coney Island Baby
One of the true masterpieces of 70s rock, this 1975 RCA release contains this little vicious number that proves his lyrical/literary acumen left 99% of his peers in the dust. The music is just one murderous groove on repeat, Steely Dan locked in cocaine overload, numb as anything and waiting to explode. The lyrics are just a ramble of conversation recorded backstage, maybe a hotel room somewhere, Lou saying, “Hey man what’s your style? I ain’t jealous of the way you’re living. When you cut that dude with that stiletto, when the blood come down his neck, it was a lot better than sex now, ’cause I need some kicks,” over the din. Casual and nervous. As the jam ramps up to nowhere in particular, it fades out and I always feel like a tourist when I listen to it. Dark and claustrophobic.
Shooting Star – Street Hassle
THE best of all his post Velvet albums in my opinion, the title track usually grabs all the attention. But if you delve into this strange and random record, treasures await. Evidently pieced together from live gigs and studio sessions, it’s Lou’s answer to the punk incursion happening around him. Play this one and listen to the live album ‘Take No Prisoners’ right after it and you get the feeling of someone who’s realized the whole music biz and it’s attendant sycophancy is just a joke. And his response was to make satirical and caustic comedy songs alongside blistering ‘fuck you’ drone rock that scrapes the very edge of heaven. If any other ‘rock’ album marries the sacred and the profane to better effect, prove me wrong. ‘Shooting Star’ sounds like 35 guitars in various tunings blasting to a mountaintop with a sax leading the charge. The lyrics concern some hapless cocooned star surrounded by leeches who doesn’t see the fall coming. At 3:09, this song ends about 10 minutes too soon; such is the glorious racket that is issued forth.
Like A Possum – Ecstasy
This 18-minute one from 2000’s ‘Ecstasy’ is late period classic. One endless riff, some bass and drums accenting proceedings but never getting in the way of THAT RIFF, a monster of Soldano-fired heat and scorch that serves as a answer to all the droners and space-rockers who have tried to approximate his sound. Get out of the way, daddy’s home! Lyric-wise, it’s some seedy New York street reportage, but more snapshots and images. “Shooting and cummin’ til it hurts,” pops out, “you know me, I like to drink a lot, calm as an angel, smoking crack with a downtown flirt,” but the truth and the heart of this track reside in the lines, “I got a hole in my heart the size of a truck, it won’t be filled by a one night fuck.” Also the mantra of, “I’m the only one left standing” surfacing throughout the track. This song feels epic in the truest sense of that word. Again, the sacred and the profane merge, ennui and frustration, “another useless night in bed,” city lights glower down and extinguish hope but still…down in the gutter, something shines. I’m not gonna give up yet. This one’s as good as Heroin; I’ll fight anyone on that.
So good night Uncle Lou, it was good to have you here for a while. Thanks for your acid tongue and your tender touch; both were essential and needed in this fucked-up world. We’ll keep fighting the unwinnable fight. Not much else we can do, eh? Good night, bud. You’ve earned your sleep.