Friday, December 6, 2013

Show #110 LOU REED TRIBUTE November 2, 2013

R.I.P. Mr. Lou Reed....

Sweet Jane- The Jim Carroll Band I Write Your Name
I'm So Free- Lou Reed Transformer 
Velvet Underground- Jonathan Richman I, Jonathan 
We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together- The Velvet Underground Live MCMXCIII 
There She Goes Again- R.E.M. Dead Letter Office
Kill Your Sons- Tommy Keene Songs From The Film
Femme Fatale- Big Star Big Star's 3rd: Sister Lovers
Head Held High- Subway Sect What's The Matter Boy?
^I Love You, Suzanne- Lou Reed New Sensations
White Light White Heat- The Professionals 1-2-3
The Black Angel's Death Song- Beck Record Club Velvet Underground and Nico
After Hours- Rilo Kiley The Execution Of All Things EP
What Goes On- The Feelies Only Life 
Who Loves The Sun- Teenage Fanclub Bonus B Sides 
*Jesus- Glen Campbell Meet Glen Campbell 
*Sally Can't Dance- The Andrea True Connection White Witch 
*New Age- Rachel Sweet Protect The Innocent
Rock And Roll- The Runaways The Runaways
There is No Time- Lou Reed New York
Venus in Furs- Monster Magnet Monolithic, Baby!
I'm Waitng for the Man- The Celibate Rifles Platters du Jour
Run Run Run- The Riats Run Run Run
Sunday Morning- The Queers Acidbeaters
>Why Don't You Smile Now- The All Night Workers Why Don't You Smile Now
I'll Be Your Mirror- Rainy Day Rainy Day
Vicious- Blitz Voice Of A Generation
Slip Away (A Warning)- Lou Reed and John Cale Songs For Drella 
Perfect Day (Acoustic Demo)- Lou Reed Transformer

^Power Pop Peak:  #78 UK Singles Chart 4/15/84

*SacroSet:  Unlikely Lou Reed Covers

>Power Pop Prototype:  1965 (First Lou Reed/John Cale composition!)

Rock and roll has produced some amazingly prickly characters over the years.  Depending on your taste in music, that statement may bring to mind Bob Dylan or Johnny Rotten or Axl Rose, yet for my money Lou Reed beats them all when it comes to sheer orneriness.  Every time Reed gained some commercial success he would intentionally derail his career.  Following 1972's Transformer, which included his sole Top 40 hit "Walk On The Wild Side," Reed released Berlin, an incredibly dark concept album about domestic abuse, drug addiction, prostitution and suicide.  I really like the record and it makes me smile thinking about what mainstream rock listeners looking for more Transformer style hits thought of a Berlin song like "The Kids" with its refrain "they're taking her children away" as a baby cries in the background. 

Reed followed his all-time best selling record, 1974's brilliant live album Rock and Roll Animal, with a double LP of electronic noise called Metal Machine Music that many critics consider the biggest "f*ck you" to critics and fans in music history.  I love Lou Reed but MMM is in every way "unlistenable."  On the few occasions I've tried, one of two things happen.  Either my brain relegates the "music" to the background, like some nightmarish galactic traffic snarl, or, if the noise can't be compartmentalized, my brain shuts down and I go to sleep.  I suppose a third option would be to go batsh*t insane, which I can also imagine happening.  I wonder if the CIA has ever considered using Metal Machine Music to break down suspects for interrogation.  Forget Cannibal Corpse, I bet MMM would have broken al-Qaeda years ago.

My friend Frank's brother Hans gave me a cassette copy of Rock and Roll Animal in the mid 80's and I listened to it over and over in my mom's Chevy Chevette.  The Dick Wagner/Steve Hunter dual guitar assault on that record is awesome, especially on "Sweet Jane."  When my family got a VCR, A Night With Lou Reed was one of the first VHS tapes I rented.  It features the great Robert Quine on lead guitar but all in all is a fairly tepid affair- I don't know if I made it all the way through the concert.  

I'm sorry to say it was MUCH worse the first and only time I saw Lou Reed live on July 25, 1986 at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass.  Debbie, the girl I was dating at the time, got us free tickets from her dad who was General Manager of Channel 4, the TV sponsor of all the Great Woods concerts.  Even for free, it was rough going.  Lou seemed to be trying for some kind of white boy funk deal with a parachute pants wearing, mullet sporting backing band that included, dare I say, it a full time saxophone player.  WTF?  The bass player's
The Godfather vs. The Demon
philosophy seemed to be "why play 4 notes when there's room for 125?"  Plus, I kid you not, on a few songs the keyboard player rocked out on a keytar.  A KEYTAR!  (Even James Brown can't make that godforsaken monstrosity look cool!)  Needless to say, that Lou Reed show was pretty bleak- the low point for me was his "rap" entitled "The Original Wrapper-" I cringed so hard I think I pulled a muscle.  I didn't listen to Reed again until the brilliant Songs For Drella came out in 1990.  Reuniting with Velvet Underground band mate John Cale, this tribute to Andy Warhol (who had died in 1987) marked Reed's welcome return to the simple, sparse and dissonant music that made me love him in the first place.
Songs For Drella, 1990

A lot of Lou Reed's prickliness was put into perspective when I read Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me, the
single greatest book ever written about punk rock.  In 1956 at the age of 16, Reed was given electroconvulsive therapy to cure his bisexuality.  In the book he says:
"They put the thing down your throat so you don't swallow your tongue, and they put electrodes on your head. That's what was recommended in Rockland State Hospital to discourage homosexual feelings. The effect is that you lose your memory and become a vegetable. You can't read a book because you get to page 17 and have to go right back to page one again."
There are several other revelations about Lou Reed in Please Kill Me (some of his sexual proclivities are especially nasty) yet nothing is as troubling as his teenage shock therapy, which forever changed my perceptions of him and his music.

March 1975
Reed's battles with rock critic Lester Bangs are legendary, my favorite appeared in Creem magazine in 1975 (though I didn't read it until 1988 in the Bangs anthology Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung.)  The article is called "Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves, or How I Slugged It Out with Lou Reed and Stayed Awake."  Reed and Bangs fight each other for the "Biggest Douchebag" title and it seems ,like they are having a great time.  No doubt both had huge egos and while Bangs loved taking the piss out of rock stars (most notably Led Zeppelin) he is one of the few people who seemed to "get" Lou Reed, even giving Metal Machine Music a positive review.  Bangs concludes the article with:

"Lou Reed is my own hero principally because he stands for all the most f*cked up things that I could ever possibly conceive of. Which probably only shows the limits of my imagination."
Lou Reed has inspired countless musicians over the years and as his legend grows will no doubt continue to do so.  What's more, he seemed to do everything on his own terms.  Whether you loved or hated what he was doing at any given time, Reed was one of the few musicians you could never completely write off because there was always a chance that his next album might just be his best in the last ten years, or twenty years or ever.

Streaming/download links for the Lou Reed tribute are below (if they "stick" just pause and un-pause)
Hour 1
Hour 2

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