Lou Reed died yesterday at the age of 71.
Lou always found his way into my listening life. I wrote about Lou a few years back on this blog, recounting how I played his album Rock N Roll Animal all day one Christmas when I was an early teen, filling the house with the strains of Heroin and Sweet Jane. A few years later, one of my prize finds from scouring the bargain bins at the local Newberrys store were a couple of early Velvet Underground recordings– on eight-track tapes. I still chuckle at the idea of Lou and the Velvets on one of those big clunky tapes. I remember driving with a shoe box filled with tapes to play in the car. I think there were maybe ten tapes.
But Lou was there, on one of those huge dinosaur cartridges. It was as unpolished as anything I had heard. Bad recordings and Lou’s flat vocals which sounded even more strained on these recordings. But there was something there that transcended the sound quality or even Lou’s voice. It was real expression. Not raw emotion, but restrained expressions of deeper feelings. The sensation I got is similar to that which I get now from looking at great Outsider art. It is work that somewhat takes the form of more traditional art but is less concerned with the technical aspects and more centered on getting across the feeling and the individual voice of the artist behind the picture. They can appear crude but sometimes there is a pure beauty in them, one that speaks across the wider range. Real art.
That’s what I heard in Lou’s songs for many years. Sorry to see him go.
There are many songs from Lou that I could play here but I want to hear Perfect Day. It’s a song that I forget at times but when I come across it, find it sticking in my mind for weeks. Hope yours is a perfect day…
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Well, this year’s Name This Painting! contest has come to an end, as of several hours ago. There are so many worthy titles here. I’m going to go over the list today and choose the one that I feel fits best. I will announce the winner tomorrow although it seems hard to say that some of these titles are not winners in some way. I want to thank everyone who submitted titles. Your insights and thoughts are really inspirational, believe me. If I could, I would be sending you all prizes.
So, as I go back to contemplating which title stands out for me, here’s a version of a favorite song of mine, Perfect Day from Lou Reed. I’ve played his original version before here but this is a bit different. It’s actually a BBC promo that has multitudes of artists singing lines from the song. But the power of the song comes through. Enjoy and come back tiomorrow to see which title wins.
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I don’t normally like to put posts with music in them too close to one another but while watching the Winer Olympics I keep seeing an ad with Lou Reed‘s Perfect Day carrying the message. I can’t even remember what the ad is for but I always stop when it comes on to hear Lou.
It’s a funny thing how the world has come around. When I was listening to Lou Reed many ages ago, the idea that his songs would be used as the motor for commerce seemed totally inconceivable. His songs were not pretty. His songs were not sentimental in the way we normally see sentiment. They were about seamy people on the grubby side of town.
And Lou was not a pretty voice. His plaintive flat tones lent a matter-of-fact feel to his lyrics of drug use, sexual ambiguity and street-smart losers. Not the stuff of your normal pitchman.
I remember a Christmas when my brother gave me the album Rock N Roll Animal and all Christmas Eve and most of the next Christmas day my stereo was blasting Sweet Jane and Heroin through the house. Not exactly holiday cheer but when you’re young and pretty much stupid, you don’t fully appreciate the occasion.
But time passes and the mainstream shifts, and what was once verboten now is the stuff of TV ads and supermarket background music.
I don’t know if there’s a point here. I just wanted to play Perfect Day for you. Have one yourself…
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It was announced this past Sunday that author/musician Jim Carroll had died at the age of 60 from a heart attack. He is probably best known for the critically acclaimed memoir of his youth, The Basketball Diaries, which was later made into a film featuring Leonardo DeCaprio in a portrayal of a young Carroll.
Carroll’s life as a youth was memorable. He was a star on the basketball courts of New York, earning national attention. He was also recognized as a budding talent as a writer and poet. This guy had a lot going for him. But at the same time he was well on the road to a heroin addiction and a stint as a street hustler, prostituting himself to feed his habit. That’s a lifetime of highs and lows by the time he hit his twenties.
I first became aware of him in 1980 or 81 when his Catholic Boy album came out. It was real NY stuff, out of the same vein that produced Lou Reed and Patti Smith. I liked the album a lot. It was one of those albums that you sometimes stumble across that you know will never find a huge audience but somehow speaks to you in a very personal way. I was never surprised that he never achieved the same type of popularity musically after that first album came out. Just on eof those rare moments of expression.
I was just thinking about him last week as I had been listening to his best known song, People Who Died, a song that has an infective driving sound and vivid imagery. I guess he could’ve added a verse for himself. Here it is. RIP Jim Carroll…
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