Monday, 28 October 2013
Lou Reed 1942-2013
The guy who hung out on dirty boulevard and reported back to us with a journalist's eye and a poet's heart.
A guy, who despite the fug of drugs and drink, a quick temper and an ego that would dwarf an ocean liner, wrote some of the greatest songs we've heard.
A guy who scorned the artistic and musical establishment and its fawning corps of critics, refusing to compromise his art to suit anyone but himself.
Of course he paid a heavy price, with work that at times missed the mark or seemed willfully oblique. But his work was made to please no-one but himself. If his work pleased you too, that was a bonus.
And he was capable of work that was breathtaking. While his Velvet Underground back catalogue is best know, his was a career littered with gems like Street Hassle, Martial Law, My House, the songs on Berlin, New York and Songs for Drella as well as the better known Transformer. Any of these would have been a masterpiece in a lesser career.
Meanwhile he quietly raised the profile of some of society's previously marginalised groups, be they the gay community, the transgendered or the drug or alcohol dependent.
For an artist so rooted in New York, it might be a surprise to see connections to France, but there are many, and they go beyond the many Francophone artists that he influenced.
When the VU finally reformed subsequent to his Songs for Drella album with John Cale, they initially took to the stage at an Andy Warhol exhibition at Jouy-en-Josas in Yvelines for the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art. While only performing one number together, it was an event that many thought would never happen.
But happen it did, and it led to a full reunion and European tour some years later.
Their 1993 reunion tour saw the band take to the stage in Scotland at their first show. Needless to say, i was in Paris at the time. I was in Scotland when they later played Paris, at the Olympia and supporting U2.
The band's Live MCMXCIII, the only official CD and DVD release by the reformed act was recorded during their three-night run at the Olympia in Paris.
The reformed band would not last, and Lou Reed would break up one of the greatest ever rock bands for the second time.
However, one interesting footnote to the Velvet Underground story took place in 1972, with Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico performing at the Bataclan in Paris.
Picture credit for image at the top of the page: dannynorton