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Little thoughts on the death of Lou Reed

29 Oct

Lou-ReedIt was Nick Cave who told me. “This is for the great Lou Reed, who died today,” said Nick, from the stage of Hammersmith Apollo, at the beginning of the end of his set, as The Bad Seeds started playing ‘Push The Sky Away.’ I’m not going to say much but I want to say something. I don’t know much about the man, own only a few of his records and haven’t even heard his most famous solo LP, Transformer. So I don’t know much but I do know what most people who ever responded to one of his records knows: that this was a difficult, indefinable, ungoverned artist, a man whose life and music were his own.

I think that by then Lou Reed had been in my life for 21 years, since a girl called Liz made me a tape of the Retro compilation, the last track of which, The Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin,’ led to me buying, on cassette, almost certainly from Bee Bees in South Woodham Ferrers, The Velvet Underground & Nico, which became and remains one of my favourite records ever.lrvu

A vivid memory of my teenage years, one which returns every time I hear the song, is walking home from school via the creek in Woodham, shortly after being given Retro, with Lou Reed’s ‘Coney Island Baby’ playing inside my head. I don’t even remember if I was listening to the song through earphones but it’s almost certain I wasn’t as I never use them- yet the memory of the song, its feel, matched the perfect summer light and heat and the blue cloudless sky and the green shining grass of Saltcoates Park.

This would have been around ’93 and The Velvet Underground (I’ve still only heard their first record) were reforming (I later learned they headlined Glastonbury that year); their box set was released, there was a documentary about them on Channel 4 followed by a broadcast of Chelsea Girls in full (I didn’t make it through that, though this should remind us how great Channel 4 once was) and I saw (or was this later?) the short version of their ‘Velvet Redux’ Live MCMXCIII, that ends with a new song, the wonderful ‘Coyote’.

I missed out on tickets to his show at the Royal Festival Hall last year and never got to see him perform a full set, but I did get to share a room with him and see him play, with Metallica, on Later…With Jools Holland, performing two songs from their collaboration Lulu as well as ‘White Light/White Heat.’ Reed was also interviewed by Holland and what the TV viewer didn’t see was at the end of the interview Lou being helped across the room, back to his place alongside Metallica. I was a bit shocked at the surprising frailty of the man (then 70) who minutes earlier had been fronting an “avant-garde theatrical” rock group.lou reed 2

I’ve never heard Reed’s famously antagonistic full-frontal feedback assault Metal Machine Music but I love it anyway. And I’m so pleased that his last record, the Metallica collaboration Lulu, seemed to piss people off nearly as much. It didn’t just win a host of negative reviews; some enraged Metallica fans sent Lou Reed death threats. It’s a brilliant record- bonkers mad and psychotic mad; it’s difficult, indefinable and ungoverned, which is where we came in.

I was in the room when this performance took place and couldn’t believe what I was seeing:

So this isn’t an obituary or career overview, it’s just some of my thoughts and feelings about the impressions this man has left on me so far. For me there’s still much more of him to delve into, deeper to go. Lee Ranaldo called him ‘irreplaceable.’ That’s certainly true.

A real and genuine loss of a unique artist: tough, punk, trans; wild, soulful, untamed. I’m grateful I got to see him. RIP Lou Reed.

lou reed

1942 – 2013


Carly’s On The Show

2 Jun

Next, a woman at breaking point. Carly’s on the show, guys.

Clapping, taped music as I walk.

Carly, welcome to the show.

He doesn’t wear a tie, open throat, a lookalike of a man who’d put a pill in your drink, smile.

Who’s Dean?

I say my boyfriend, two years and because I love him.

Want to meet him? 

Dean sits like he would with his dinner on his lap, or gently gripping his pint in the pub in  front of the big screen football. Everyone there, the girls sat apart; or just us, curtains drawn, hands saying bedtime.

But that’s not all, is it, Carly? What happened next?

I fell pregnant.

Dean the father? Hundred per cent?

Hundred per cent.

So Dean, are you working? There’s a surprise.

Some laugh or boo, but not really. We’re too boring, look stupid to them and this man who doesn’t look real. Dean with his legs apart trying to stare him out. New cap on. Security man on the side of the stage and a boy with headphones and tissues.

Look at her. She’s terrified of you.

Think you’ll pass?

 Our lie detector said.

Sorry darling, you’re boyfriend’s a cheat and a liar.

What? Like you did to her?

This is pointless. I thought it would help me but it hasn’t. Nothing can. It’s just talking. Dean doesn’t care. We don’t live here.

Last night in the hotel Dean said he loved me. Tasted of beer. Slobbered on my face. A sex kiss. I know the sort of girls he looks at. I can see him now, when I’m at home and he’s drunk and the jukebox is playing and he’s laughing and making her laugh. Like when we met. Look in her eyes and kiss her, play with her hair. Too drunk to drive anywhere. Taking her round to the bins. 

He’s shouting at Dean, asking about the baby. The baby.

You just don’t care, do you?

Not really, Dean says.  

Do you care about the baby? Hear that Carly? He’s not even sure the baby’s his.

Of course it’s yours Dean. Tears stuck in my throat. Face going red. Not fair and not real, tomorrow it’ll all be normal again but what about Dean if he left me and the baby how could I cope looking out the window at the factories and the hills and the white sky and at the shops with the pram everyone laughing as I wipe my eyes and walk back to the flat past the butchers, the offy, the wedding dress shop, Dean playing pool in the pub and I’ll stare at the pub but never go in and now he’s saying to Dean so I’m paying for your baby while you sit at home smoking cannabis and Dean’s laughing.

Why are we here? Carly, why are we here?

Don’t know. 

I’ll tell you why you’re here. You want this waste of space out of your life.

The man looks bored of us, nothing left to prove. 

You’ve got two kids already haven’t you, Dean? You a good dad? Gonna be a good dad to this child when it’s born?

Now he’s talking to me, saying you know what I think Carly and Dean says at the end of the day and I didn’t even say it wasn’t just twice that Dean hit me it’s all the time and even once in Tesco and Dean’s standing up and walking away and the man’s holding up his arm and I have to leave as people clap and my bump feels heavy and  backstage it’s all wires and corridors and I can’t see Dean and now it’s over and when it’s on our telly everyone can see at the bottom of the screen it says You Tried To Trap Me By Having A Baby and I didn’t remember any of it like that and Dean just sits there smirking and I hardly speak and the man dances round us and the audience just watch, my hair looks greasy and I sit there looking fat and my clothes make me look old and when there’s nothing left of us the man says right, next up we have Michelle.

Don’t go anywhere.