I won’t attempt to compete with all that’s being written about Lou Reed in the wake of his death earlier this week. His death just made me reflect on my own encounters with his music.
I’m sure the first Lou Reed song I ever heard was “Walk on the Wild Side,” as it was one of the few songs of his that made it to the radio in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. I always liked it, even as a kid of maybe ten or twelve. It’s catchy, and Reed sings/talks about all these people who were on various journeys to see something new. They sounded kind of down-and-out, especially compared to my own suburban existence. Maybe that was part of the appeal.
Once I started getting into different kinds of music as a teenager I heard a little more of Reed’s solo music, and then when I was about twenty I bought a vinyl copy of “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” in large part because of the cover (I was aware of Andy Warhol, and assumed that buying this record immediately increased my cool factor). I don’t think I had ever heard any of these songs before buying the album, but I had read about it, probably in Rolling Stone.
This album was transformational for me. It’s unlike anything else I was listening to at the time, and it seems like music made not to please an audience, but just because the band thought it was good. If ever there was a song destined to never be played on mainstream radio, it’s “Heroin.” I also like the Nico songs “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” The songs seem simple musically, and despite the band’s tough appearance, the songs are often very sensitive.
Other favorites of mine include “Perfect Day,” “Satellite of Love,” “Sweet Jane,” “Who Loves the Sun?” and many others, I suppose. I think there are some musicians whose music I just seem to get. Not that I love every song, but the ones I love I really love. Lou Reed is one of those people.