Lou Reed

I know, I know, in a career which offers a bounty of treasures both renowned and ‘hidden’, offering a U2 clip in remembrance of Lou Reed seems rather discourteous. Yet if this was one of my first encounters with him, the result of my brother’s obsessive U2 love at a time when I was still fixated on Madonna and Michael Jackson, it’s only the appearance which keeps floating into my mind. Even back then Lou’s interjection seems to be beamed in from across the ether, a spectral approximation which fits far better than a run-of-the-mill ‘guest appearance’ ever could.

It would be a few years later that Lou and the Velvet Underground fully burst into my consciousness, part of the soul-shaking musical awakening brought about by my falling for David Bowie in 1996. Bowie’s Phoenix set changed everything and as part of my incessant replaying of it I heard White Light/White Heat hundreds of times:

I had never been so thrilled by music before and concomitant to my pupil-dilating Bowie rush came tumbling discoveries of Transformer, the Velvet Underground & Nico, Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith. Each encounter felt like a alien visitation, sublimely unfamiliar and stirring  – it’s no exaggeration to say that so much of who I am was forged in that brief period. I can’t pretend that I comprehensively explored Lou’s solo work in the same way I did with Bowie, or even the Velvet Underground, but I still had an awe-struck awareness of how central he was to so much that seemed, and still seems, sacred to me. His impact still ripples today and everyone who sees pop music as more than entertainment, more than song-and-dance, should pay their dues today. 16 year olds will have their own big bang moments with Lou at the centre for the rest of time. That spectre singing Satellite of Love will never die.

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