Lou Reed Died, Here Are Some Tracks To Remember Him By
From the mid 1980s to the mid 00s I saw Lou Reed every time he played, and managed to catch him in what amounts to the best of his solo career. I realize that people may point to Transformer, and that just isn’t true so let’s not discuss, Berlin? Yeah, maybe, but its such a bummer. Metal Machine Music -too difficult though I can’t think of an album, maybe Yoko Ono’s Fly, that has improved more with time.
I would go with New York and Ecstasy as a close second. I saw him on both tours and had front row on one of them. The New York tour he was playing at a Broadway Theater and the sound was astounding and, really, Neil Young would have problems with such political immediacy. The guitar sound (Mike Rathke and Lou) is seminal, I’ve never heard anything like it before or since. Ecstasy is the height of his powers, of his seriousness, of his genius, as is the first song on this list.
Rock Minuet – A dirge and a a memorial and a death song, maybe for rock and roll, but not really because it seems to open itself to how rock lives on after. There is a terror to this song, it is sort of Lou’s back pages but the pages are wet with semen and sex and a dream of the future. Julian Schnabel discussed this on the Costello “Spectacle” tv show and I loved it before but it reminded me of how much I loved it: how its hope, like all of Lou’s hope was not a con, he wasn’t putting lies to the truth, in the middle of the hippie 1960s, he was his own man. This song will haunt you if you hear it.
Good Evening Mr. Waldheim – One of his greatest songs as songs go, you know, melody, beat, guitar, rhymes, and the words are a shocking smackdown of Jesse Jackson, who he accuses of racism (Jesse’s “Hymietown” comment and embrace of Farrakhan): “remember those civil rights workers laying in the ground?”. He decides by the end that “there’s no ground common enough for me and you” while a terrific, like a sound you’ve never heard, guitar takes you.
Caroline Says I – Many consider the Berlin suite his masterpiece, a meditation on drugs and suicide without an exit. Much of it is difficult (much more difficult than the two songs above), and I love it but listen to it for fun? What FUN??? This is the easiest song on the album.
Hang On To Your Emotion – Was this Lou’s wedding album? It has a soft beauty focused, it is a swirling beautiful, forgiving, welcoming song. Cmon, “Eggcream” was on it, Set The Twilight Reeling, as well. This is a Reed fans for people who don’t love Reed.
Sick Of You – Lest we forget, Lou began his career as a hired songwriter and knew his way around a melodic hook, and this song? Hysterically funny and as misanthropic a put down as you can dream of. Plus a melodic hook.
Sally Can’t Dance – Here he is, still a Coney Island Baby, still transforming, still glamming it up, still a screaming meanie. A wower. “She took too much meth and can’t get up off the floor… That’s why she can’t dance.
The Bells – Heavy, heavy symphonic rock in a study of horror. Lou sounds as though he is about to completely break apart.
Berlin – Title song off the album that even now, I love to hate. The piano is morbid and the song sinks down. Has anybody ever said “it was very nice, oh honey it was paradise” more morbidly?
Metal Machine Music, Part One – I swear to you, listening to it today, Arcade Fire should be so lucky to be this musical in their experiments. This is obviously sonic guitar soundscape feedback from a master, and I take back my questioning his comparing it to West’s Yeezus. Try it again.
Romeo Had Juliette – Ripped off the streets of late 1980s New York City, see you sweet Lou “Caught between the twisted stars the plotted lines the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York…”