Monday Mixtape: A Lou Reed Tribute
Hello people, I hope you’re well. I had written this week’s mix tapes a few days ago, but last night the news was released that Lou Reed, the mind behind The Velvet Underground and his own wonderful solo career, had passed away, aged 71. One of the most significant musicians of the twentieth-century, the impact of Lou Reed on the music that came after him cannot really be calculated. The fingerprints of Reed’s music can be heard in such diverse and eclectic genres that to imagine a world that existed without him is beyond comprehension. In the coming days there will be many eulogies by writers more eloquent and talented than I, so, if you will allow me, I will have to speak personally about my experience with the great man in order to even come close to capturing the impact he had.
I can recount a time before and after I heard Lou Reed. When I was fifteen-years old I purchased my first copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico from an ASDA for £3; that forty-years earlier, when the album was released, it is mythologised that only one-hundred people bought the album and now it can be found in a flagship commercial enterprises is a testament to the cultural impact Reed had. I remember sitting in front of my stereo mesmerised by sounds and lyrics being omitted from the speakers in my headphone. I had never before conceived music existed like that contained on The Velvet Underground & Nico. They formed a collision between pop music, on which I was raised, and avant-garde experimentation. The sounds are jagged, piercing at times, the rhythms repetitious, the lyrics varying between the sentimental and the perverse (songs about sadomasochistic sexual gratification and bondage tend to be memorable). If you listen to The Velvet Underground’s first album and find yourself unmoved in someway you simply weren’t listening. It is incredible and will forever be an album to define music taste, open doors to new possibilities and be a keystone record for music.
The later three albums by The Velvet Underground I have a similar bond with. Each album shone a light onto new concepts of what is achievable in the pop song format and on to avant-garde forms. Reed was a fantastic lyricists and songwriter, it is the combination of the two that makes him stand so highly above many of his peers, and he was the equal of Lennon and McCartney or Dylan. But what makes him essential for the generation from which he came, to mine and many future generations, is his fearlessness, his desire to reinvent his sound, to always attempt new forms and new styles, whether it worked or it didn’t. He is an example of what an artist is.
While much of the music I have listened to over my twenty-four years of life eventually takes a back seat to new discoveries, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground hold a place that is unmovable inside me. They developed my music taste, opened up realisation of what music can and should be, that more important than anything courage and conviction should go in to what you create and never fear anything in your art. In tribute to the great man, I’ve assembled a playlist of some of his stand out cuts. But such a short list will never suffice. Go and listen to all the Velvet records, listen to his solo work, go back and devour Transformer. Celebrate the work of one our great cultural figureheads and one of our great artists.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to Lou Reed, for everything he gave this world during his life and the impact it will continue to have.
1) Lou Reed – Perfect Day
2) The Velvet Underground – All Tomorrow’s Parties
3) The Velvet Underground – Jesus
4) Lou Reed – Street Hassle
5) The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
6) Lou Reed – Walk On the Wild Side
7) Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby
8) Lou Reed – Romeo Had Juliet
9) The Velvet Underground – Here She Comes Now
10) The Velvet Underground – Candy Says
11) The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning
12) The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat
13) Lou Reed – New York Telephone Conversation
14) The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane
15) The Velvet Underground – What Goes On
16) The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs
17) Lou Reed – Satellite of Love
18) The Velvet Underground – I Found a Reason
19) Lou Reed – Heavenly Arms
20) The Velvet Underground – Ocean
21) Lou Reed – Vicious
22) The Velvet Underground – I’ll Be Your Mirror
23) Lou Reed – The Kids
24) The Velvet Underground – Oh! Sweet Nothing