2013 was a strange and scary year in my aging process. Mortality became real as friends and family were starting to move away to the great beyond and the soundtrack to my own life started to show serious holes. My personal musical frame is rather eclectic and covers many genres, all of them somehow touching on blues and rock. Even poetry takes a considerable place in my musical choices, which makes the creation of this website Rockandrollparadise.com not only voluminous and time consuming undertaking, but also expansive from jazz rock to flamenco and from Delta blues origins to punk and grunge.
I know death is the Great Equalizer, but I still cannot stand there with wide open arms when the Grim Reaper comes and takes my idols away, one after another, sometime with so little time in between that it feels as if my whole generation is hit by a tidal wave of insignificance. So many of them have already gone to the stage beyond.
And every time another legend passes these days my second thought is: Damn there must be a magnificent concert playing tonight.. I’m with George Harrison, who 4 years prior to his death from cancer, said: “We’re all so busy and pre-occupied with fake bullshit and drama that we have lost sight of trying to find answers to the most urgent question of all: “What happens when we leave this earth?”
Today Lou Reed moved on to that Rock and Roll Paradise stage 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!
I don’t really know why Lou signified my reason for starting this personal legacy website, since I was much more hit by the sudden passing of legendary guitarist Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) this year. Fact is that Lou and Velvet Underground contributed greatly to our formative years.
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 an open D tone.
As a teenager/guitarist in Holland in the early 60s my early preferences quickly moved from the Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds and Animals across the pond in search for different. Leonard Cohen brought some of the coffee shop poetry into my musical palette, Dylan captivated my political and societal formation process, the Summer of Love put my attention on the American West Coast, 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. Rebellious if you like.
Lou Reed was never my greatest inspiration, even though 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 co-lead 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. Take a walk on the wild side, Lou.