Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Lou Reed fans mourn rebel who walked on wild side

BY STEVEN GREEN

Tributes have continued to pour in for musician Lou Reed, the avant garde enfant terrible of rock 'n' roll who died of liver disease on Sunday.

Fellow music icon David Bowie (below), who produced Reed's seminal Transfomer album, has been leading the eulogies to his old friend who eschewed commercial and critical success, but achieved it anyway.

Velvet Underground founder Reed was one of rock's archetypal tough guys, but he grew up middle-class – an accountant's son – before choosing a musical and artistic career, forging a relationship with pop art creator Andy Warhol.

He hated school, loved rock 'n' roll, fought with his parents and attacked them in song for forcing him to undergo electroshock therapy as a supposed "cure" for being bisexual.

"Families that live out in the suburbs often make each other cry," he later wrote.

At Syracuse University he studied under Delmore Schwartz, whom Reed would call the first "great man" he ever encountered.

He credited Schwartz with making him want to become a writer and to express himself in the most concrete language possible.

Reed honoured his mentor in the song My House, recounting how he connected with the spirit of the late, mad poet through a Ouija board.

Reed moved to New York City after college and travelled in the pop and art worlds, working as a house songwriter at the low-budget Pickwick Records and putting in late hours in downtown clubs.

One of his Pickwick songs, the dance parody The Ostrich, was considered commercial enough to record.

Fellow studio musicians included Welsh-born viola player John Cale, with whom Reed soon performed in makeshift groups such as Warlocks and The Primitives.

They were joined by a friend of Reed's from Syracuse, bassist Sterling Morrison, and by an acquaintance of Morrison's, drummer Maureen Tucker, who tapped out simple, hypnotic rhythms while playing standing up. They renamed themselves The Velvet Underground after a Michael Leigh book about the sexual sub-culture.

By the mid-1960s they were rehearsing at Warhol's 'Factory', a meeting ground of art, music, orgies, drug parties and screen tests for films. The tests were projected on to the band as they played.

"Warhol was the great catalyst," Reed told BOMB magazine in 1998. "It all revolved around him. It all happened very much because of him. He was like a swirl, and these things would come into being: Lo and behold multimedia. There it was. No one really thought about it, it was just fun."

The Velvets juxtaposed childlike melodies with dry, affectless vocals on Sunday Morning and Femme Fatale. Reed made just three more albums with The Velvet Underground before leaving in 1970.

His Seventies albums were praised as daring experiments or mocked as embarrassing failures.

But in the 1980s he kicked drugs and released a series of acclaimed albums, including The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts and New Sensations.

He played some reunion shows with The Velvet Underground and in 1990 teamed with Cale for Drella, a spare tribute to Warhol.

He continued to receive strong reviews in the 1990s and after for such albums as Set The Twilight Reeling and Ecstasy.

He continued to test new ground, whether a 2002 concept album about Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, or a 2011 collaboration with Metallica, Lulu.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph