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Lou Reed, R.I.P.

It came as a shock to find out that Lou Reed, a fixture throughout the whole of my musical life, had passed away due to complications from liver failure today. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote a fine obituary today, so in terms of a retrospective, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. However, there’s also a personal component.

I’m not quite sure who made the quote (it’s always attributed to Brian Eno when I try to source it), and it is surely apocryphal, but here it is:

The Velvet Underground’s first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.

I’m one of those guys. Now, my ‘band’ did nothing but practice, and it was a real pleasure at the time, but for all those bands who heard that first Velvet Underground album, it compelled the listener to go do something. You became an active participant rather than a mere listener.

Though I spent my formative years in Los Angeles, I loathed The Doors and most of the bands from San Francisco (Love was the only one I cared for deeply who were from the West Coast). My heart and mind, musically, at least when it came to Americn music, was firmly planted in New York, with all the debauchery that city was famous for. The Velvets were gritty and hard, unlike their bloated, pretentious, and frankly mediocre fellow musicians out west. We got bands like Blind Melon thanks to The Doors. We ended up with Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, The Cure, and scores of other substantial bands thanks to Lou, John Cale, and the troupe.

May Lou rest well, and our condolences go to his wife, the composer Laurie Anderson, herself one of the great sages of radical American music.

Sunday mornings won’t quite be the same, will they?