Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lou Reed (1942 - 2013)

I still remember the first time I heard the Velvet Underground.

It was the autumn of 1984, the miners were on strike and I was a student at Manchester just starting my second year. Paul my flatmate and I lived in a cold, damp ground-floor flat in Hathersage Road, Longsight.

We'd been invited to a party somewhere in the area, and around midnight, sitting on a stair, bored and lonely and thinking about leaving, I suddenly became aware of a strange driving hypnotic song coming from the stereo in the sitting room. It kept me planted on the stairs, entranced, and then propelled me into the living room where two or three girls danced in a rather ironic way (the song featured a very 1960s Hammond organ sound). Once it was over, to be replaced by the inevitable Smiths or Simply Red song, I asked the host what it was. He handed me a dark green album with a tacky and faintly tasteless graphic featuring a too short mini-dress and leopard skin knickers. It was a live album by a 1960s group called The Velvet Underground. A day or two later I bought the album, and quickly discovered the song in question was called "What Goes On." A little while after that, I bought the famous 'banana album' by the Velvets and was hooked.

Thoughout my twenties I was a passionate Lou Reed fan, who owned many of his albums and loved the bitter twisted anger expressed in a lot of the lyrics, which were often paired with rather jolly happy three chord songs. The production was often minimal, and even the most unpromising material would often feature a passage or an aphorism or simply an odd yet true observation. 

I saw him perform twice - once in the unlikely surroundings of the London Palladium in 1989 promoting the excellent New York album, probably his best solo effort. I believe some of Britain's highly critical music press voted that performance 'gig of the year' in their end of year reviews. A few years later I saw him again with the reformed Velvets on the Paris leg of their rather chaotic once-only reformed world tour. It was nice to hear the standards performed live by their originators, and I was struck by how avant garde the music still sounded and what a good musician John Cale is - he seemed to play everything at that concert including the electric viola which produced screechy haunting very 'avant garde' kind of sounds whilst destroying the bow he was using - at the end it looked more like a horsehair whip than a bow.

Time moved on, I got older and my interest lessened. The last Lou Reed album I bought was Songs for Drella, his collaboration with John Cale to commemorate and celebrate their mentor Andy Warhol. None the less I was saddened by Lou's death and was pleased to introduce M (far more a music lover than I) to some of his best work recently.

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Farewell 2014

I as type, 2014 has another hour and a few minutes to live.

What a great year! Highlights include a really good holiday in Molyvos on the island of Lesbos, spending our first year in our new house, and generally having a trouble free and prosperous year.

Sadly I've lost interest in the blog so much I doubt there will be many entries in 2015. As you can see, my last entry was a kind of obituary for it, aged 10.

And so much for all that - happy new year!