The Friday Morning Listen: Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal (1974)

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My week of Lou Reed has come to an end. I’ve been playing his records continuously since learning of his passing, the only “break” being the occasional dip into the music of his widow, the incredible Laurie Anderson. I’m not really sure why Lou’s death has affected me so much. Like a lot of suburban kids in the 1970s, there wasn’t a whole lot of intersection between my experiences and life on the streets as portrayed in many of Reed’s songs. Was it instead…the references to sex? The loud guitars of “Sweet Jane”? Not really.

The roots of my love of Lou Reed begin with Lester Bangs. I spent an awful lot of time back in the day puzzling over just what the heck Lester was talking about in his Creem magazine ramblings. Lester’s writing style — which seemed to inhabit the same maniacal space as that of Hunter Thompson — made me wonder if I was reading fact or fiction. Not only was it hard to determine if Bang’s liked Reed (or not), it was equally difficult to nail down if any of the reported on events actually occurred. Was Reed lying on that hotel bed with a bearded transsexual? Did Lester actually down Johnny Walker Black by the case? Actually, both of these things probably have elements of truth in them, but I didn’t really understand that at the time.

The other night, I went back and re-read Bangs’ “Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves,” published in Creem in 1975. Before the rant really gets cranked up, Lester is remarkably succinct

Lou reed is my own hero principally because he stands for all the most fucked up things that I could ever possibly conceive of. Which probably only shows the limits of my imagination.

And that’s it. Lou wasn’t really a hero of mine, but he was pretty much fearless with regard to his art. Sure, he tipped his cap (several times) to make commerce happy, but for the most part he just went for it. It’s a rare trait in an art world where conformity and fear can have as much influence as open-hearted creativity.

Speaking of open-hearted, mentions of a short Laurie Anderson-penned Reed tribute/obit piece (published in the Long Island newspaper the East Hampton Star) came flying over the Internet yesterday. I sat there for a while trying to decide if I should click on a link. It felt sort of ghoulish. On the other hand, a big part of what has upset me is that I feel so bad for Anderson. I can only imagine (and I’d rather not) what this must feel like. Her writing shines with her usual grace. I’ll finish here with her thoughts because, as you’ll see, there’s no need to say another word.

To our neighbors:

What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.

Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home.

Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!

Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

— Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend

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