The 1959 Voyageur yearbook of Freeport High School, Freeport, New York.
The 1959 Voyageur yearbook of Freeport High School, Freeport, New York.
Lou Reed is 71 years old today. The guy went through hell as a kid and pushed himself to the edge as an adult and he fucking survived, proving that sometimes rock ‘n’ roll will ace electro-shock and heroin.
In this hauntingly cool video, Lou, looking like a stoned extra from Les Enfants du Paradis, rocks out as he nods out at the Olympia Theater in Paris, Sept. 17, 1973.
Stripped of his guitar and touring in makeup with Alice Cooper’s backing band on the orders of RCA, he performed entire concerts unable to stand up, much less sing.” Keith Heffernan.
“Walk On The Wild Side”
“White Light/White Heat”
This is the best Lou Reed footage I’ve seen and I want more. It was shot for French TV. Does the entire concert exist somewhere on video or film?
The source of inspiration for most of the songs on Coney Island Baby, Lou Reed’s transvestite lover and muse Rachel (Tommy) has always been somewhat of a mystery figure. In all that’s been written about Reed, Rachel is barely a footnote. Despite playing a significant romantic role in Reed’s life and even touring with him during the mid-70s, Rachel managed to keep her private life private. Even details of her death are vague. She is rumored to have died in the early 90s.
Photo: Mick Rock.
In an article for Creem, Lester Bangs’s description of Rachel was so vicious that Reed never forgave his friend and staunchest supporter. Bangs described Rachel with stunning insensitivity:
“[L]ong dark hair, bearded, tits, grotesque, abject… like something that might have grovellingly scampered in when Lou opened the door to get milk or papers in the morning.”
Bangs later apologized, claiming it was one of the few things he ever regretted writing.
Others found Rachel beautiful and elegant. She was half Mexican Indian and, in the words of John Cale, a “long-limbed, long-haired transvestite.” Bangs, in a less bitchy mood, wrote that “If the album Berlin was melted down and reshaped in human form, it would be this creature.” Which, depending how you felt about that album, could be seen as quite complimentary
There’s no question that she made the moody Reed a happier person.
In an interview with Bambi magazine, Reed described his first and further impressions of Rachel:
It was in a late night club in Greenwich Village. I’d been up for days as usual and everything was at that super-real, glowing stage. I walked in there and there was this amazing person, this incredible head, kind of vibrating out of it all. Rachel was wearing this amazing make-up and dress and was obviously in a different world to anyone else in the place. Eventually I spoke and she came home with me. I rapped for hours and hours, while Rachel just sat there looking at me saying nothing. At the time I was living with a girl, a crazy blonde lady and I kind of wanted us all three to live together but somehow it was too heavy for her. Rachel just stayed on and the girl moved out. Rachel was completely disinterested in who I was and what I did. Nothing could impress her. He’d hardly heard my music and didn’t like it all that much when he did.
Rachel knows how to do it for me. No one else ever did before. Rachel’s something else.”
In Coney Island Baby, Reed sums up the New York state of mind, his and ours:
Ahhh, but remember that the city is a funny place
Something like a circus or a sewer
And just remember different people have peculiar tastes.”
In researching Rachel’s life, there is little to draw upon. She is referred to both as a transvestite and transsexual in the various articles or quotes I have managed to find on her. According to friends quoted in Legs McNeil’s book Please Kill Me, Rachel hated her cock, thought it was too small, and wanted it gone. But there is no evidence of her undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
As a long-suffering Lou Reed fan, I find his relationship to Rachel fascinating in the same way that I find most of his life fascinating. I’m not “outing” Rachel. She did that quite well on her own. She was a prominent figure in New York City’s nightlife of the 1970s. A regular at Max’s. She was even photographed (with Lou) by Mick Rock for a fashion spread in Penthouse magazine. Rachel liked the attention.
The most surprising thing about the life of Rachel is that we know so little of it. Here’s a woman who lived with one of rock’s biggest stars for three years and no one even knows when, where or how she died. I couldn’t even find out her full name.
I think Rachel’s anonymity has more to do with Lou’s public image than Rachel wanting her privacy. Reed made a conscious decision to go “straight” (the bi-sexual thing had served its purpose as a fashion statement) and Rachel didn’t figure into his public personae anymore. She disappeared as quickly as she had come into his life. The scene was fickle and she was no longer a part of it. Reed completely refused to talk about her after 1978.
All the albums I put out after this are going to be things I want to put out. No more bullshit, no more dyed hair, faggot junkie trip. I mimic me better than anyone else, so if everybody else is making money ripping me off, I figure maybe I better get in on it. Why not? I created Lou Reed. I have nothing even faintly in common with that guy but I can play him well—- really well.” Lou Reed.
I think Rachel deserves some recognition. She inspired some of Reed’s best songwriting and managed to keep him steady at a low-point in his life. History can do better than to kick her to the curb.
The Guardian’s website has an amusing article on the five worst rap songs ever, of which I’ve chosen one to ruin your day. Sadly, it’s from one of my heroes: Lou Reed.
Now we all know that Lou can straddle the line between being brilliant and being absolutely awful. His recent collaboration with Metallica being an example of the awful. As is the tune “The Original Wrapper” from Reed’s rather wretched 1985 album Mistrial. The song’s title is a pun on the fact that Reed could arguably be considered one of music’s original rappers, at least when it comes to white guys. When he’s insincttively doing his thing, like in “Walk On The Wild Side,” Reed’s style has a nice flow. It’s when he tries to put quotations marks around what he does and attempts to rap in a style that is overtly “rap” that he looks the fool. This is where rap becomes “wrap” - contained, sealed and insensate.
“The Original Wrapper” isn’t just a bad rap song, its a bad 80s song. Listen to the generic syndrums, processed guitar licks and overall tawdry production. The sound of Reed’s de-evolution.
And the colored girls go “oh no.”
Sassy Lou Reed interview shot during the Sally Can’t Dance/Rock & Roll Animal phase in Australia, 1974.
Reed is clearly having fun toying with the reporters on the topics of drugs (he’s all for them), transvestism (sometimes) and what he spends his money on (drugs).
Lou Reed performing at the Houston Music Hall on November 13, 1974.
This multi-generational copy of a fan shot video looks like shit, sounds okay, but given there’s so little performance footage of Lou from this period, I’ll take it. Beggars can’t be choosers.
The Houston show was part of the “Sally Can’t Dance” tour and Reed’s band was comprised of former members of the hugely underrated and deeply funky Rhinoceros: Danny Weis [guitar], Michael Fonfara [keyboards], Eric “Mouse” Johnson [drums] and Peter Hodgson [bass].
“New York Stars”
Reed is gettin’ on the good foot Long Island-style.
A big collection of Doctor Who action figures “sing” Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”
This version of Reed’s “Perfect Day” was originally done for a BBC charity promotion in 2008 which included a vast array of singers including “David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Bono among many others.”
Unfortunately, the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory are not included in the video.
Thanks you, Edward Ludvigsen!
Talk about yer strolling bones…
To be fair to these aging rockers, anyone, and I mean anyone over the age of 40 would look unsightly photographed this close-up.
More after the jump…
The fact of Vanessa Paradis (proudly displaying her Jane Birkinesque diastema) and Dave Stewart (a neon Serge Gainsbourg) singing Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” is evocative enough in and of itself. But there’s an added dimension to this video that makes the whole thing kind of spooky and more than a little bit clammy. Watching Paradis performing a duet with Stewart, who looks uncannily like a combination of the future father of her two children, Johnny Depp, and Depp’s frequent collaborator Tim Burton plus his former lover and collaborator Annie Lennox, is like watching a re-tooled version of “Lemon Incest” for the MTV generation…without Gainsbourg’s real incestuous vibe.
As the echoplex of history loops in upon itself, let’s ponder other elements of this time warpy video.
Paradis’s cover of “Walk On The Wild Side” appeared on her 1990 album Variations sur le Meme T’Aime, the same year that Depp and Burton’s first collaborative effort, Edward Scissorhands, hit the big screen. 1990 was also the year that Lou Reed re-united with John Cale and the other members of The Velvet Underground to play a charity gig in Paris. The last time they had played together was 1972, the year that Paradis was born. Add up the numbers in 1990 and you get 19. Paris 1919 is the title of John Cale’s third solo album.
Exactly 19 years after singing her duet with Stewart, Paradis covered the Serge Gainsbourg song “Ballade de Melody Nelson” with Johnny Depp.
Sigmund Freud was 19 years older than Carl Jung. Flight 19 disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. The Qur’an teaches that 19 angels are assigned to guard the fires of Hell. Which brings up the question: “where were those angels when this video was made?”
“Walk on the Wild Side” is 40 years old. So is Vanessa Paradis. Jesus fasted 40 days and nights….
If you have ever seen any of those low-budget “Under Review” made for DVD rockumentaries, then you know that they follow a fairly tried and true formula: Almost no music by the group or performer the doc is about, approx 5 minutes of archival film clips in the course of 90 minutes and usually a bunch of crazed loner rock critics you’ve never heard of, yakking it up about their favorite rock groups. Often the interviewees are fairly tangential to the subjects, but not always. The range from awesome (the one on the early days of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention was excellent) to awful.
In The Velvet Underground: Under Review, they managed to nab TWO actual members of the Velvet Underground, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule—both Reed and Cale, predictably sat this one out—which elevates this way above most of the others ones. Even longtime VU fans might learn something new here. For instance, I’ve listened to the VU for 36 years now and I didn’t know that Maureen Tucker didn’t play drums on Loaded because she was pregnant. Every copy of that album (and the CD) credits her on the back—your copy and mine—but it’s not her drumming, it’s Doug Yule, studio engineer Adrian Barber, a session drummer named Tommy Castanaro and Billy Yule, who was still a high school student (It doesn’t sound even remotely like Mo Tucker on Loaded as I found listening to it the day after I watched this doc). You also hear Mo talk about how she stripped down her drum kit to get a more primitive, less busy, sound. And Yule, who always gets short shrift in the VU saga, gets plenty of onscreen time to discuss his role in the band (How many of you reading this know it’s him singing “Candy Says” and not Lou Reed?). I’ve never seen an interview with him and I was very pleased to see his participation in this film. If you’re a VU fan, this film is absolutely worth your time.
Lou Reed. P.M. - Pre-Metallica. A Night with Lou Reed, his performance at the Bottom Line, New York, from 1983.
01. “Sweet Jane”
02. “I’m Waiting for the Man”
03. “Martial Law”
04. “Don’t Talk to Me about Work”
06. “Waves of Fear”
07. “Walk on the Wild Side”
08. “Turn Out the Light”
09. “New Age”
10. “Kill Your Sons”
11. “Satellite of Love”
12. “White Light/White Heat”
13. “Rock & Roll”
Look out for an air-guitaring front row fan around 51.48 - a portent of things to come A.M.? (After Metallica?)
Previously on Dangerous Minds
A little more from Lou, after the jump….
Director Darren Aronofsky, whose films Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan oozed visual style, can’t do much to polish the turd that is Loutallica. Grainy black and white, super slo-mo and lens distortion create a nightmarish quality that is undercut by the song’s ludicrous heavy handedness, ending up more silly than spooky.
Some tellin’ it like it is, spotted in record store.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Lou Reed and Metallica mutilate ‘White Light/White Heat’ on British TV November 8
NONONONO Cat reviews Lou Reed and Metallica’s ‘Lulu’
Loutallica: Hot trash video mix - NSFW
30 second shards of Hell: Excerpts from the new Lou Reed/Metallica album
In the mess that is Lulu one song that is generally singled out as having some of the vibe and feel evoking vintage Lou Reed is “Junior Dad.” Last night, during their concert in Cologne, Germany, Reed and Metallica performed the song and, lo and behold, it’s the first live video I’ve seen of the band that actually moves me in a good way.
Reed seems a shitload more engaged with what he’s doing in this video than during his addled performance on Jool Holland’s show from a few nights ago. World weariness has displaced death warmed over.
Is it possible that as Loutallica tours behind Lulu they may actually discover the heretofore untapped magic in their collaboration? Perhaps, if they replace their current drummer with Mo Tucker.
You can visit the Lou Reed/Metallica Youtube channel for more of the Cologne concert.
Loutallica take another shot at ‘White Light/White Heat’ after the jump…
Lou Reed and Metallica in hit and run accident leave White Light/White Heat dead on the side of the highway - rock and roll road kill.
Everything about this is just plain wrong, from Metallica’s dunderhead playing to Reed’s total inability to find the pocket of the song…which is understandable because there is none. What is not understandable is why Reed continues to trash the Velvet Underground’s legacy. Can the surviving members of VU get a cease and desist order?
This is like watching a beloved friend racing toward the edge of a cliff in an out-of-control 1978 Ford Pinto - a sense of helpless dread overcomes you as you avert your eyes and pray for Divine intervention.
Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, Loutallica shows you just how bottomless the pit is. And that Lars fuck should have his hands bound with chicken wire and never allowed anywhere near a drum kit.
“If all this makes you feel sorry for him, then you can compliment yourself on being a real Lou Reed fan. Because that’s exactly what he wants.” Lester Bangs, 1973.
Later With Jools Holland, November 8, 2011.