Why Lou Reed’s death set off such a shockwave in me I don’t know, but that’s the way it is with death shockwaves. The horribleness hits; you try to push it away either by physically flailing or silently closing the mind; but it comes back at you, it won’t absent itself, ever.
I first heard Lou Reed’s music on a disposable flexi-disc recording of a Velvet Underground song included in a special Andy Warhol-designed issue of Aspen magazine. I was a high school freshman and remember the moment perfectly -- unfriendly, unbelievably aggressive & piercing noise following the floppy item floating down the spindle and stylus hitting the grooves. I recoiled in the manner intended; I guess that’s what is meant by “épater les bourgeois.”
By senior year, I was a big, big VU fan and was also addicted to Lou’s first solo album, the one it's not hip to like, which featured jacket art by the fellow who illustrated the Ballantine Raymond Chandler reissues my friends and I were deep into. "Lou Reed" (the lp) and the Chandlers were BOTH GREAT and seemed to go together at the time.
Lou made some of the most beautiful music ever and wrote some of the best lyrics, so many of them ("Some Kinda Love"; "Pale Blue Eyes") everlasting eye-openers. He also sang them better than anyone else could ever hope to, i.e, naturally and conversationally, as if he were telling inevitable and true stories, weird poetic legends. I will never understand how Lou was able to make such fine records and be such a terrible live performer. You can’t have everything, I suppose.
A giant walked the earth. Right now I feel more than a void, more than a profound sad silence.
Velvet Underground: Venus In Furs (Link)
Velvet Underground: Some Kinda Love (Link)