If you have read my “About Me” on this blog, it’s just a Velvet Underground lyric. It’s taken from Some Kind of Love. It’s one of my favorite songs, not just from The Velvet Underground but one of my favorite songs, period. It makes me happy because it’s so simple and it expresses that playful dirty charm that one experiences when they discover a new kind of love. The Velvet Underground have been with me since I was 15. Since I purchased Andy Warhol Presents The Velvet Underground at Tower Records. I bought it for $15. I’ve seen it now for $6, new. Lou Reed’s voice was always my favorite, obviously. Nico is an acquired taste. Not Lou. Lou was something special.
What can there be said that hasn’t already been said? Countless Rock and Punk documentaries will always showcase the tremendous influence Lou and The Velvet Underground had on music. It’s a given. Like The Beatles, like The Rolling Stones, like The Blues and Elvis, VU is among them. Lou was the James Dean of Rock N Roll. When you look at the black and white photographs of Lou back in the 60’s, there is an idealism within those snapshots. It’s this idealism of true artistry. A raw power that he held behind those dark Ray Ban sunglasses. There was no bullshit in his expression.
Back when I bought that iconic album, I only had one incentive. I bought it because I read an interview with Albert Hammond from The Strokes and he gave me this image of smoking pot and listening to The VU. But then my mom found out I smoked pot so there went that vision. I listened to the album in a complete normal state of mind and I felt something incredibly new within me. It exposed me to music that I didn’t knew existed back in the 60’s and 70’s. It exposed me to literature and poetry. It exposed me to the avant garde and post modern art and thought. It exposed me to different aspects about sexuality and sensuality. Of course this didn’t all happen when I was 15 but it certainly was a trickle down effect throughout the years. Most of my phases can be traced back to Lou and The VU. I went through a Beat phase, because Lou had been compared to Beatniks so I thought “hey what’s that?” I went through a phase where I only read dirty “high brow” literature. It started with Venus In Furs by Masoch because, well, I don’t have to explain. From Masoch, I went to Miller, Nin and Batailles (who combined the absurd with the vulgar, trust me.) Lou introduced me to Patti Smith, the goddess of Rock N Roll. Lou’s voice was there when I was enthralled with a boy. He was there singing, “Sometimes I feel so happy, sometimes I feel so sad, but mostly you just make me mad. Baby, you just make me mad,” when my heart broke every time with that boy.
On Sunday, I woke up hungover and checked my phone. I saw probably five people quote or put up a Velvet Underground video with the letters R.I.P next to it. I gasped. It’s a really different type of sadness that is felt when someone you never knew but was there all the time passes away. There was a kind of selfish or vain guilt that I felt for being sad. Since I didn’t know him at all I just felt like I was taking away the sadness or the feelings of those who did know him well. I immediately started listening to Sunday Morning. A fitting song, right?
Later on that afternoon, I went to pick up my sister at Starbucks and when I was getting ready to tell her bummy news, I chocked up. I dropped her off at home and ran errands on my own. While driving around, I took the long way to the places I need to go and back home. I was driving around listening to Lou and The Velvet Underground. And I just started to cry. Full swollen tears ran down my face.
When I was hearing Stephanie Says and Candy Says through the speakers, it felt like this will never happen again. Not the moment I was having but the music, the lyrics, the song. Lou Reed will never happen again. I don’t mean, oh he’s physically gone. People die, that’s life. He lived to 71 which is a pretty damn long time. What he took with him was almost the end of an era, a generation. It might sound trite to say that but in his death, a little bit of truth, raw artistry and originality went with him. At least in the public spectrum he lived in. I’m sure there are real artists out there but I can’t shake off the feeling that with him, the idea of just making music for the sake of rock n roll, broke. We live in very vain times. We live in a society where the pressure to be seen rather than heard is valued more. Maybe I’m just cynical, I don’t know. But in my car, my fat swollen tears just kept squeezing out with every word Lou sang. Lou Reed was just one of those people, artists, that you never think will go away. They just grow old, make weirder music, comment about the state of mainstream music once in a while, collaborate with Metallica and embrace Kanye West. Lou was just being Lou and he was supposed to just be all the time.
But we’re all human and we’re all destined to experience a final flash of white light. We all have blood circulating that makes our heart pump, like Mo Tucker’s drum beats. We all go through an agonizing love affair of some kind that leaves our soul pale, for a moment at least. We experience little or big moments of love from the touch of a shoulder. And some of us drink Sangria in the park. Moments that Lou captured in his words, his music and his eternal soul.
Thank you, Lou.
…between thought and expression, lies a lifetime…