Random Rambles
Comments 19

Sweetly, Neatly, Screaming, Almost Sleeping

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!


That cover — art by John Holmstrom

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:


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:



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…



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


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



  1. Thanks so much for this post and those links. There is a lot of catching up for me to do with Lou Reed. In 1967-1968, I listened over and over again to my sister’s copy of “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” mostly because of the song “Heroin,” but all of the songs had something about them that I felt and understood and didn’t understand at the same time. Back then and until recently, it didn’t register with me that Lou Reed was the main songwriter for that album. Have to admit that I didn’t listen to Lou Reed after that (except for hearing “Walk on the Wild Side” on the radio beginning in 1972) until I heard him sing “Foot of Pride” for the 1992 celebration of Bob Dylan’s 30 years as a singer and songwriter. With that, Lou Reed had my attention, but still I didn’t seek out his albums.

    Turns out 1992 was the year that “Magic and Loss” came out, when Lou Reed had been clean and sober for about 8 years. Just this morning I pieced that together. By then he did have the look of someone who has been in the darkest of places and lived to tell the story with humility and grace. I had no idea that he was married to Laurie Anderson. Well, of course.

    Thanks again. I’ve been reading along quietly.

  2. Robert says

    Lady Godiva’s Operation – love that song. We were rehearsing it one Sunday in the garage at Hedgehog’s place and I recall Hedge’s mum remarking that at least one of our songs sounded tuneful.

  3. Thank you for sharing this music. He does remind me of Bob Dylan. I really liked the last two songs: Ecstasy and Magic and Loss: The Summation.
    His quote:
    “You have to be very strong, ’cause you’ll start from zero
    Over and over again… ”
    So true.

  4. Lou Reed for me was sitting up all night when a student with my mates drinking strong tea and smoking foul filterless cigarettes to Candy Says and having great conversations about music and politics. I’d been a classical music nerd up until then: the Velvet Underground opened my eyes to rock music in a way all my schoolfriends’ noodling prog rock albums failed to do. The Coke Bottle album… and then there was Metal Machine Music…

    (I’m back blogging again).

    • I have listened to approximately three seconds of ‘Metal Machine Music’ — that was enough!

      Yeah, I have lots of memories of share-house Velvets soundtracks, and also house-mates playing ‘Berlin’ ad nauseum etc. And also ‘Rock N’ Roll Animal’ — bombastic but exciting. I played it the other night and that point in the intro where they move into the start of ‘Sweet Jane’, I started to tear up. That’s my secret confession, buried here in the comments…

      Speaking of Coke bottles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLpjmOWTMZI

      (Good to have you back.)

  5. Just back from a trip to NYC. It was odd being there and seeing how his passing made very little impact on the city. I only heard one mention if it as we were pottering about the city on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Super post, as ever, from you. I am enjoying the trip down memory lane.

    • Yeah, I guess a lot of people are oblivious, anywhere, about a lot of important people/stuff.

      Looking forward to hearing about your NYC trip — no doubt you immersed yourself in some street photography in Reed Country! I wonder if it was cold there — Kate tells me it snowed lightly upstate a day or two before Halloween!

      • Not so much street, or any other genre really. Mostly a family trip so I could only snatch what I could while not breaking my stride. But I had a great time anyway.

  6. Run Run Run has that bumblebee solo style that Hunters and Collectors borrowed (I assume) on Talking To A Stranger.
    And what a great pick of that guitar on I Heard Her Call My Name…its not easy to keep a random solo going like that without repeating yourself or losing focus. It is unbelievable.
    For me, the song that says Lou to me is Kill Your Sons. Try it out.
    In my mind, I’ve asked Lou why he left us. He hears me but he doesn’t bother answering.

    • Yes, you should know Lou doesn’t enjoy interviews. He obviously thought the question was beneath him!

      I just got hold of a deluxe edition of the Banana Album. It’s almost too much: mono and stereo discs, Nico’s ‘Chelsea Girl’ soundtrack, two discs of a bootlegg-ish live show in Columbus Ohio (!) (which STARTS with a 28-minute feedback/improv piece called ‘Melody Laughter’ that must have blown a few minds/launched a few beer cans — but sounds almost soothing as background music), plus something called the Scepter Studios Sessions with alternative versions of the Banana Album songs plus other unreleased stuff…

      It’s actually amazing how much VU stuff is out there for such a “neglected” band. And yes, “Kill Your Sons” is a winner — and not the last time he was scathing about his parents on record!

  7. Goat, try Lou’s 80s albums. There are moments of brilliance but you will have trouble waxinglyrical over entire albums.

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