RIP Lou Reed. I’m trying to remember when I first heard your name. It must have been sometime in the 80s, when I was getting into music, into new wave, punk, postpunk, and every new artist I fell in love with seemed to mention your name. Maybe it was that biography of Bowie, with the picture of you, him and Iggy Pop, resplendent in glitter and leather and platform boots.
Lou Reed was one of the most influential, maddening, brilliant, genre-breaking artists of his era. Of any era, ever. I had the privilege of seeing him perform live twice, and he blew my fucking mind. He was a poet, a perfectionist and a visionary who once told legendary journalist Lester Bangs that “My bullshit is worth more than other people’s diamonds”.
Yes Lou, yes it was, and it grieves me to know that you’re not around anymore to bless us with your brilliant and incomparable bullshit.
Look at the picture below. It was taken at Lollapalooza. Chicago, August 9, 2009. I was there for a friend’s wedding. I bought a single ticket for the last day of Lollapalooza mainly because Lou was performing. He played right before Jane’s Addiction, and seeing two of my favourite artists back to back on that sweltering summer night remains one of my most euphoric memories.
See the figure onstage with the white flying V guitar? That’s Lou. He was wonderful that day. Cranky, intense, focused and brilliant.
Lou had a fearsome reputation and he was the first to admit it was true. I remember an episode of the classic and lamented Canadian TV show “The New Music” – one of the most intelligent music journalism shows I’ve ever seen – where Daniel Richler tried to interview Lou Reed. The New Music had actual informed, smart, music nerds as hosts, and Daniel was no slouch, having performed in a punk band himself. Lou ate him for breakfast. The interview was live, and Lou replied to Daniel’s questions with monosyllables, not even bothering to look at him. After 5 minutes, Daniel asked “Do you want to do this interview?” Lou said no, tore off his microphone and walked off set.
I don’t ask that my heroes be nice people. All I ask is that they be true to themselves. In that respect, Lou never let me down.