If you’re unaware, rock n’ roll great Lou Reed died yesterday at the age of 71. He was a revolutionary musician, singer, and songwriter, and his work with The Velvet Underground, along with his solo albums, continue to influence artists of all genres. This is my depiction of how I knew Lou Reed, and the affect he had on my life. Enjoy.
Lou Reed: March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013
We’ll start in New York City during the mid-60’s, The Velvet Underground comes under the management of art phenomenon Andy Warhol. Led by guitar player/singer Lou Reed, The Velvets become the house band at The Factory, Warhol’s art studio, and hangout of New York’s outcasts. They release a few poor selling records, and disband in 1970. Fast forward to 2010, a young music lover hears “Heroin” for the first time. I was instantly transfixed by the vivid imagery and compelling vocals. I’d never heard anything so dark, so real. I thought to myself, “This was made in the 60’s?” My vision of the 1960’s until that point was the hippie stereotype. What still amazes me to this day was that this music was coming out at the same time, but no one had heard it. It was the counter-culture to the counter-culture. “I guess, that I just don’t know” resonated with the isolation that I was feeling at the time, and “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life” was more honest than anything I had ever heard.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when my roommate Kevin MacKenzie really showed me the prophet that was Lou Reed, or as we put it “Lou Motherfucking Reed”. You’ll never find a bigger Lou Reed fan than Kevin, we listened to all of The Velvets’ records, and he got me into Reed’s solo albums, namely Street Hassle and Transformer. But, Reed’s presence left an even bigger impact on me. He was so fucking cool. The leather, the sunglasses, his mannerisms during interviews, he didn’t give a fuck. He was punk before punk was a thing, and he was everything I wanted to be.
Everyone knows, or should know, that The Velvet Underground & Nico is one of the most influential albums of all time. Brain Eno said it perfectly, ““The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years, but I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Everything that came after in rock n’ roll was influenced by The Velvet Underground. Their lyrics paint a portrait of the grimy underbelly of New York City, a place where freaks and weirdos reigned supreme. Lou Reed was a journalist of sorts; the words he wrote were his direct perception of that New York scene. Lou Reed is New York City. When I listen to The Velvet Underground & Nico, or any of The Velvets’ or Lou Reed’s albums, I’m transported right into The Factory with Warhol, Reed, and a bushel of transvestites and drug dealers, and I’m home. Reed’s description of that 60’s New York scene led me to delve deeper into the fashion, the art, the feeling of that time period. Without Lou Reed, I can confidently say, there wouldn’t be The Vinyl Warhol. There may be a music blog, but it wouldn’t be called The Vinyl Warhol.
Lou Reed was an artist. He made art that everyone could relate to. He practically invented the underground music scene. And I’ll never forget him. Thank you.