The death of Lou Reed initiates rock and roll paradise and my personal quest to give tribute to many of the great that formatted my life with music.
2013 was a strange and scary year in my aging process. Friends and family were starting to die like apples falling from an often forgotten tree.
I know death is the Great Equalizer but I still cannot stand there with arms wide open and call the Grim Reaper to come and get me or my heroes, even though there are already so many of them gone to the beyond.
And every time another one passes these days my first thought is: Damn there must be a magnificent concert playing tonight.
Today Lou Reed moved on to that Rock and Roll Paradise in the Sky at age 71. The concert tonight will be minimalist, because it was the Velvet Underground front man who once claimed that a One Chord song was fine, using two chords was being on the edge of Rock and Roll and if you played 3 chords, you were into Jazz!
As famous riffs go it is said that Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” is the world’s most recognized guitar riff. If you ask me that honor would have to go to Keith Richard’s “Satisfaction”, even though my personal favorite is “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. BUT… I will always and anywhere and immediately recognize the opening lick for Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” in that monotone rhythmic beat of the open D tone.
As a teenager/guitarist in Holland in the early 60s I quickly moved from the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds and Animals across the pond in my search for different. Leonard Cohen brought some of the coffee shop poetry into my musical palette, Dylan captivated my political and societal formation process, but Lou Reed filled a niche of darkness, carelessness and anger that expressed perfectly the mood of the sixties before flower power. His compositions were provoking and challenging and part of a mindset controlled by a deep need to be contrarian and unexpected.
Lou Reed was never my greatest inspiration, yet I may have been a reclusive member of a very small and exclusive group in Amsterdam that had vinyl records by Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. To Lou Reed’s credit, Brian Eno once famously noted about Lou Reed’s massive influence on grunge, punk and other musical forms: “Velvet Underground’s first album only sold 10,000 copies, but every one who purchased the album started a band.”
No doubt that New York’s Greenwich Village, the Andy Warhol pop art cult and the grandmaster ‘managing’ the Velvet Underground have largely contributed to Lou Reed’s long term rock status into the 21st century. Warhol was in my opinion more a visionary of human manipulation than a magically talented artist, but when he added beautiful German born model Nico (1938-1988) as singer to the album Velvet Underground & Nico, he established himself as an artistic genius and Lou Reed and Velvet Underground as a musical force.
Enjoy your welcome concert tonight Lou, we’ll miss you here, but you left us a great legacy of work to enjoy for the remainder of our years. The world has lost an original, but rock and roll paradise welcomed another rock God.