I’ve always had a very complicated fandom with Lou Reed. But I can truly say that he had a profound impact on my life. Early in High School, when I had no taste in music at all, I worked in a library. Filing the library’s CD’s was one of my jobs, and one day I discovered this album with an Andy Warhol banana on its cover. I was curious, so instead of filing it, I took it home. The Velvet Underground & Nico is that album that changed my life. I never listened to music the same way, and it spawned my curiosity to discover more.
In college I saw Lou Reed in concert. After the show, my friend and I followed some other people to meet him. There he stood, behind a box office window. I was excited, yet terrified. It was awkward. He didn’t smile, no hand shake. He didn’t say a word. I didn’t have anything for him to sign, so I slid my concert ticket over to him and he scribbled on it and slid it back. Walking away, I thought, “what a jerk.” But, I framed that concert ticket, it sits on my desk as a reminder that heroes are not perfect.
This was Lou’s way. He wrote the songs he wanted to write and made the albums he wanted to make and all along the way people gave him a hard time for it. But, he always had the last laugh. “Walk on the Wild Side”, a song with subject matter that would make a modern-day censors’ head spin, became a radio hit. In 1975, he got his label to release, “Metal Machine Music”, an album featuring an hour of guitar drones. More recently he released another drone album intended for his Tai Chi meditation. Reed blazed a trail and made it easier for other artists to take risks.
It chills me to read in his New York Times obituary that in his last hours he continued to practice Tai Chi in order to remain strong. Death was the one thing he couldn’t control, but he left this life the way he went about every day, not compromising and fighting against the way things have to be.
Long live Lou.
- Brian Siewiorek, Production Director at 91.3fm WYEP