You never forget your first time. The first time you listened to Lou Reed. That deep, gravelly voice, resonating with the smoke of a thousand cigarettes. Clear speech, good diction, great lyrics, hardly singing, more poetry set to laid-back music then words set to song.
For me, inevitably, it was Sweet Jane, with a roomful of wannabe stoners singing along in unison, reveling in the music that our parents didn’t like and didn’t understand the references to, while we tried to smog the girls in the darkened rumpus room of mid-seventies suburbia.
The great thing about songs and music is that everybody reads into them what they want to. For me, Perfect Day was no more about strapping a belt on your arm and shooting up with heroin, than it was about cleaning the toilet. For me, Perfect Day was, and still is, about the joys of waking up on a clear sunny New Zild morning, with the sun glinting on the rolling breakers, and a loved one in your arms, after a long night on the night before, and sipping that first OJ of the morning, followed by a crispy fresh croissant, or a snappy, tangy apple. I never got that whole, Happy to be a Junkie, fucked out of your mind, near-death obliterated brain vibe – or rather, I got it that he got it, but I never wanted to be a slave to the syringe to get there. Waiting for my Man was more about the need for my fellow grommet to arrive with the boards, than for my fellow dealer to arrive with a load of smack, but hey, each to his own.
It has been interesting to see how the world has reacted to the death of Lou Reed: no doubt, somewhere in Christian Right-Wing heartland USA there will be some people rejoicing that such an evil influence has gone, but I think that for most of us normal people, we are just saddened that this great musical talent and superb lyricist has, at last, shuffled off this mortal coil. Friends all over the world have felt obliged to post a quick RIP Lou on Facebook, or tweet out an inane 140 characters to the world. Links to obscure favourite Lou Reed tracks have been unearthed, many of which I am shamed to say I had never heard of.
Did Lou ever come to Wellington? Come to that – did he ever come to New Zealand? I think he must have, although I don’t recall it. Tell me – what are your best Lou Reed memories? What does he mean to you?