Doctor is coming, the nurse thinks sweetly
Turning on the machines that neatly pump air
The body lies bare
Shaved and hairless, what once was screaming
Now lies silent and almost sleeping
The brain must have gone away
~ Velvet Underground, ‘Lady Godiva’s Operation’ — covered by our first band in the mid-80s
Here’s to Lou Reed!
In a dusty box at home is one of my favourite things, a 1976 first-edition copy of issue #1 of PUNK, the NYC zine that first revealed the music, and the name it had picked up, to the outside world. It was an unbelievably fluky flea market find.
There’s Lou on the cover, a terrifyingly accurate likeness, and the comic-book interview inside (Lou was in a dark place at the time, and I’m not just talking about the murky interior of CBGB’s at the Ramones gig where the Punk punks ambushed him) is equal parts stupid and hilarious — “Your circulation must be fabulous” is one of Lou’s trademark ice-cold put-downs.
I’ll have to dig that yellowing artifact out and have another read when I’m back in Brisbane. It should probably be in a glass cabinet but I kinda like it creased and brittle and shedding its cheapo ink onto my fingertips.
Lou’s death affected me more than I would have imagined, but in truth I never did imagine it. He seems just about as set in stone and here to stay as a dirty NYC boulevard.
The Internet has been awash with tributes since the man died on Sunday Morning — I must have read that Brian Eno quote about the first Velvet Underground album two dozen times since I woke to the news on Monday. I could go on and on about Lou, the Velvets and the role of his/their music in the lives of my friends and I, our bands and the bands we listened to, loved and still love. But like I said, there’s tons of this stuff out there right now. Let’s just say it’s impossible to imagine underground rock, punk rock, alternative music — whatever you want to call it — if there hadn’t been a Lou Reed.
Pretty hard to imagine an NYC without a Lou Reed, for that matter. Thanks, man.
Here’s a handful of songs that are particularly special for me:
RUN, RUN, RUN
How do you pick one song off a perfect album? Here’s one that tends to get ignored. It just chugs druggily along telling its tale of doomed characters with darkly Dylanesque names — Teenage Mary, Seasick Sarah, Margarita Passion, Beardless Harry:
I HEARD HER CALL MY NAME
Oh, my gawd, that guitar, the no-messing-around way it gets down to business! This song captures the explosive take-no-prisoners attitude of the great punk songs.
I know that she’s gone, gone, gone
I heard her call my name
And then my mind split open…
TRAIN COMING ROUND THE BEND
I love this one (from Loaded) in part ’cause it’s fun to picture our hero in such an anachronistic setting!
I’m sick of the trees
Take me to the city
Train comin’ round the bend
Oh train comin’ round the bend
Is it really, as I’ve read once or twice, a metaphor for his musical visions bearing no fruit?
Been in the country oh much too long
Trying to be a farmer
But nothing that I planted never seems to grow…
A live one off Letterman. The vid quality isn’t great but Lou is looking cool, the human-percussionist is great and this song — I once spent many, many nights sitting in the dark worrying about a woman, listening to this song on headphones. The imagery, the suggestion of drama and loss in the places and things the narrator describes — amazing.
I remember in some liner notes Lou describing how great it was for him to be walking around town and see a street musician playing that killer riff.
Across the streets an old Ford, they took off its wheels
The engine is gone
In its seat sits a box
With a note that says, “Goodbye Charlie, thanks a lot”
I see a child through a window with a bib
And I think of us and what we almost did
The Hudson rocketing with light
The ships pass the Statue of Liberty at night
MAGIC & LOSS: THE SUMMATION
This is the only song I’ve heard off this album (Magic and Loss). I found this haunting and empowering from the first listen, and I always loved those lines:
You have to be very strong, ’cause you’ll start from zero
Over and over again…
And here we are, back at zero. Better get moving…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote