This was posted by a close friend of mine on Facebook recently. Having given it some thought, I have to confess that Lou Reed passed me by. Not literally - although he might have stumbled past me in Greenwich Village once. To be honest, I wouldn't have known him from Al Read (the popular 1960s radio comic, pictured) - who made me laugh when I was a small child.
Lou Reed, on the other hand, made me faintly depressed. Don't get me wrong, I'm not averse to the odd glass of sangria in a park. Or a movie too, and then home. But I never was one to walk on the wild side. More likely to be the one holding the coats if a fight broke out at school - or trying to smooth things over to avoid any sort of conflict in any situation.
Some of the cooler types at my Alma Mater would proudly display their support for Lou Reed: walking about the corridors of learning with an iconic 'Transformer' album cover tucked beneath their arms. The Velvet Underground were definitely de rigeur amongst the great-coat wearing loon panted brigade.
Confession number two: I have never heard this album in its entirety. The whole art-rock thing didn't appeal to me at all and I still don't get it to this day. About five years ago I stumbled upon a bargain rack in a small independent record store, where they were flogging off classic CDs at three for a tenner. Deciding it was worth the investment, I selected a trio comprising Joni Mitchell's Blue, Pulp's Different Class and The Velvet Underground (digitally remastered) complete with Cale and Reed depicted on a suitably moody sleeve insert.
Music is such a subjective thing, but I'd say Jarvis and the boys probably never surpassed the freshness of Different Class. The young Joni's voice, once described in NME as 'soaring' is more akin to 'squawking' on Blue - but there are lyrical masterpieces to be found here.
Little Green, for example. This must have been an incredibly difficult song to write - so intensely personal, true and tragic.
If you don't know it, here is a little word sketch of how the story unfolds. Joni falls for a young hippy, and falls pregnant. He flies the nest for California. There he enjoys a hedonistic life of painting, staring pointlessly at the sun and shoving flowers into soldiers rifle barrels. He sends her nothing more than poems in the mail. Daughter (Little Green) is born and 'dirt poor' Joni decides the only way to secure a decent future for her child is to have her adopted by a good family. Hardly any of Joni's family or friends even know about the birth. The heart-wrenching song ultimately wishes for Little Green to have a happy ending.
Which she did.
Unknown to Joni Mitchell, her daughter finds care and comfort growing up with a comfortably-off Toronto family, is privately educated and eventually cuts a catwalk dash as a successful fashion model. (Yes, this is all true). Not-so-Little Green doesn't discover she is adopted until she is pregnant with her own child, at the age of 27. All that is revealed to her is that her mother was a poor folk singer from Saskatchewen. A look in the mirror at her own high cheekbones, fair hair, blue eyes, something friends say….DNA testing does the rest. Nearly three decades after they were separated, mother and daughter are re-united.
Now that is my kind of perfect day.
I mention this because, try as I might, I cannot find anything good to say about The Velvet Underground album. Nor - I am ashamed to admit - Lou Reed. I have gritted my teeth through the album but once, and I can't even bring myself to give it a spin now by way of a tribute. Nico and her pals' mournful droning and tinkly keyboards do not do it for me at all.
But hey, what a terrible world it would be if everyone liked the same kind of music. And despite walking on the wild side and all that art-factory jazz, it appears that Lou Reed was a decent and gentle sort of chap - and I reckon those are just about the best reasons to remember anyone.
So, RIP Lou. I don't suppose you'd like my music much, but then I'm not a bad egg either.