Why Lou Reed Was Awesome

“One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

Maybe I didn’t tribute him well enough in my original post. Maybe the quote above says it all. Some further thoughts on Lou’s legacy:

Relentless pursuit of perfect sound quality. Take a gander at this live recording of Pale Blue Eyes. It’s perfect. Lou would not be mistaken for an “audiophile” – he hated anything pretentious. But his methods were exacting and his mixes were so full, so tightly-meshed.

Then listen to “The Gift,” with earbuds. Notice that the right ear features only the spoken word track and the left ear features only the instrumental brooding jam. The clarity and purity are unbeatable, and he was one of the first to do this.

Relentlessly being himself and screw the critics.

This SPIN interview pretty much says it all.  His belligerence toward the establishment is on his sleeve. Apparently he was notorious for being one of the most difficult interviews in rock, but there is often an inverse relationship between willingness to fawn toward the mass media and true artistry. As one goes up, the other goes down.

Never being afraid to flex his creative muscle even if it was nothing like his previous work.

His 1975 Metal Machine Music album was purely an hour and a half of guitar reverb, distortion, and feedback. He had had eventual cultural bandwagon success with the four Velvet Underground albums from 1967-1973 (people liked it after someone cool liked it) and then that all went to pot so he started a solo career. No one really liked his solo work. So he put out a noise album. His old friend Andy Warhol was proud. (See? Artistry.) Yes,  it’s kind of like Revolution #9, but it shows how much he didn’t care about perception and basically gave the man the middle finger.


 Writing about people and the messiness of urban life at a time when it really wasn’t cool to do that yet.

In the early to mid ’60s he was already writing in dark detail about hard drugs, S&M, and transexual prostitutes. (“I’m Waiting for the Man,” and “Heroin,” “Venus in Furs,” and “Sister Ray” respectively.) The Stones didn’t get there until the ’70s, and when “Heroin” came out, the Beatles were singing about getting high in the most bubble gum way possible (“With A Little Help from My Friends”). I appreciate his honesty and not kowtowing to a cultural taboo.

 Being the godfather of NYC punk and glam.

That scratchy, gritty guitar, the unstructured rambling, a voice that didn’t have to be anything special to be powerful, a little black eye makeup – all the seeds of punk that eventually sprouted with Patti Smith, New York Dolls, the Ramones, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. Even REM claimed inspiration from VU. Every leather-jacket-wearing New York rocker can thank him for his creating a direct path to musical authenticity.

He even inspired the Black Crowes to be even more awesome than they usually are.

I’ll leave you with this.

Thanks, Lou.


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