I am filled with sadness at the passing of Lou Reed. When I was a teenager I had probably four true musical loves - Bowie, The Beatles, Marc Bolan and Lou Reed. The first Reed album I bought was (like for many) "Transformer" (which for some of you too young to know, was produced by Bowie, and his guitar player Mick Ronson played piano and did the arrangements - think of the song "Perfect Day" for Ronson's level of contribution).
I hadn't a clue what the lyrics on that record were about as a 13-15 year old (and probably just as well!), all I knew was that I loved that record. It spoke of strange people (very) and even stranger places. When I was 16 I had two people on my wall - Bowie and Reed. The more I caught up on Reeds' catalog of albums and learned more about the Velvet Underground it shaped my appreciation for music that wasn't the stuff you heard on the radio. Same with Iggy Pop another recipient of largesse by Bowie that put him on many a persons radar, mine included.
There was a great quote attributed to Brian Eno that "The Velvet Underground's first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.". Probably not entirely true as the record sold about 50,000 copies in its first couple of years but it appealed to a certain type of listener (me!), it was left of centre, it was noisy, it had it's roots in Andy Warhols' art/multi-media rock and roll circus. I'm not going to type out Reed's life story and musical transition here, go check out a Wiki somewhere. But it's a truly fascinating story.
I picked up "Rock And Roll Heart" in the market in Navan back in about 1977, "Street Hassle" (and I didn't know this at the time) featured a brief monologue by Springsteen (I didn't even have ANY Springsteen records at this time). His first solo record "Lou Reed" I bought on Trimgate Street in Navan from a Hare Krishna!! The guy was selling a bunch of records from a big leather satchel from over his shoulder. I think it cost me £3.
In 1986-88 I was living in New York. One afternoon in the Village I saw a flyer from Tower records that Lou Reed would be signing copies of his then new album "Mistrial". I scoured, quite literally, Manhattan for a copy of the sheet music of "Walk On The Wild Side" and finally through sheer perseverance I eventually found a copy. I was thrilled with myself. In advance of the signing I also bought an new copy of "Berlin" on vynl and two rare singles "My Love Is Chemical" and "September Song".
I queued up outside Tower Records and finally found myself in front of Lou. I handed my camera to the store guy and had my picture taken and Lou happily signed my wares (I also had "Mistrial" with me as I'd bought it when it was released.
Cloud 9. Lou was my first starstruck experience of a musical legend. When he heard my accent he recounted his gig in Croke Park supporting U2, we had a chat about Ireland, and he was sound.
Fast forward to the last show of his I attended (The Ecstasy Tour). It was in The Olympia theatre in Dublin and by the luck of the ticketing gods I was front row and centre stage. I had a great time, savouring every song.
After the show I went to the exit door and with a bunch of other folks waited for Reed to come out which he duly did and he signed lots of stuff for people. He looked up and spotted me. He dipped his head and looked out from over the rim of his obligatory sun glasses and said "hey! I remember you? You were in the front row right? You were having a blast, thank you for enjoying the show so much, it means a lot"...oh boy.
I have every album that Reed and The Velvets ever released. I was only playing "Another VU" yesterday. I am just gutted to think Lou has left us. You think these musician guys are going to be around for ever. Well, he WILL be but, you know what I mean.
So, tonight I go to bed with a heavy heart and I'm sure I'll be listening to some old records over the next couple of days (in fact only a couple of weeks ago I put about 16gb of Reed's music on a memory card which I have in the car). You'll probably hear some weird and wonderful stuff about Lou over the next few days, he WAS unique and a one time deal. He gave many journalists a very hard time and never minced his words. Renowned as contrary, surly and aggressive. I never saw that side of him on my two encounters. But the music will always speak for itself. Off the top of my head if you want any references to check out, start with one of the "Greatest Hits" volumes out there. Transformer, Berlin, New Sensations, New York are all great records too.