Lou Reed :: My Top 10 Favorite Songs
Lou has been on my list of artists to feature since I put the list together. With his recent unexpected timing it seemed like the right time to write his feature post, though I have to admit I have felt more than a little overwhelmed over the past few days as I have been trying to get my feelings about Lou all down. I have found myself struggling with not only song selection, but with finding the right ways to articulate what his music, both with the Velvet Underground, and his solo work, has meant to me. Lou Reed was one of those iconic people who I think I fooled myself into thinking would always be with us, so when the news hit that he was no longer with us it knocked the wind out of me, and left me feeling lost and sad.
All that emotion is tough to wade through, especially since so many of his songs hold personal meaning and memories to me. With his loss, it at fist felt selfish to write about my connections and associations to the music. Shouldn’t I be writing about the overall significance of The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed? Shouldn’t I be talking about his influence on music today, and of all the ways his music has transcended the years and musical eras? This should be a tribute, and not just self-indulgent writings on what I get from his music, shouldn’t it?
Then I realized that it was a tribute to write about my reactions and emotions and meanings and memories that his music has gifted me, because it is just that, a gift of music, one that will keep giving to me, and so many others, for musical ages to come. I am just one voice who holds significance to the songs, one voice of many, and those stories and reflections are part of his musical legacy. This here is how I celebrate the art he gave to the world. This here is my tribute to Mr. Lou Reed, and my thank you for the music.
Here are my Top 10 Lou Reed songs:
“Sometimes I feel so happy,
sometimes I feel so sad.
Sometimes I feel so happy,
but mostly you just make me mad.
Baby, you just make me mad.”
It was an interview with Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, in the early 80’s, wherein he was asked about his musical influences, that introduced me to The Velvet Underground. My best friend bought the album soon after and I made a cassette copy of it, one that i wore out from listening so much until I eventually went and got my own copy. This wa my first favorite song of theirs, both musically and lyrically.
“Outside it’s a bright night,
there’s an opera at Lincoln Center,
movie stars arrive by limousine,
the klieg lights shoot up over the skyline of Manhattan.”
I have always been fascinated by New York City, coveting and caressing made up images in my head fused out of songs and stories and films I love. This song is always in the mix, holding hands and standing next to a few Blondie and Leonard Cohen tracks. This is the Chelsea Hotel version of New York City that I still hold onto, and will someday have to settle with reality (I hope) when I get to visit the city someday.
“Candy says I hate the quiet places,
that cause the smallest taste of what will be.
Candy says I hate the big decisions,
that cause endless revisions in my mind.”
I used to hate silence. Within the quietest moments my thoughts would unsettle, unwind and become a chaotic and tangled mess of emotions I just did not want to deal with. Candy seemed familiar to me, at least the way I saw her plight and inner workings, it felt a lot like how I felt during those first times of falling in love with this song.
“This magic moment,
while you lips are close to mine,
will last forever,
forever til the end of time.”
We were both huge David Lynch fans, and had so many shared moments watching his movies and the Twin Peaks series. He thought it was keen that I was Laura Lynch when he first met me, even if the last name was a “married” last name, and that I was “married” to someone else. He learned to play this one on the guitar for me, and used to sing it like Lou late at night to make me smile.
you hit me with a flower,
you do it every hour.
Oh, baby, you’re so vicious.”
We both had copies of Transformer, on vinyl, when we moved in together. My record player was the first thing to unpack and we hooked it up before we even brought the refrigerator in. This was the first album we played, his copy, I think, and I can see us now, in my memory’s eye, singing-a-long together while we balanced boxes up the rickety back stairs into our tiny first apartment.
“Heavenly wine and roses,
seems to whisper to her when he smiles.”
Jane was one of my first characters to come to life in my imagination when I first started writing my novel. She was/is part creation, part pieces of my life, and part musical inspiration (mostly from this song, the Cowboy Junkies re-told cover and Jane’s Addiction’s Jane Says). Music, she is ever my muse.
“Jackie is just speeding away,
thought she was James Dean for a day,
then I guess she had to crash,
Valium would have helped that bash.
Said, “Hey, babe,
take a walk on the wild side.”
I found my own “wild side” and played the game of role reversing and recreation with a reckless abandon ease. I was running as fast as I could, filled with adrenaline, passion, pathos and an assortment of chemicals. There were other ways to go, better I am quite sure, but I do not regret a single memory.
“When you think the night has seen your mind,
that inside you’re twisted and unkind,
let me stand to show that you are blind.
Please put down your hands,
’cause I see you.”
We were mad for each other, head over heels over heart over any kind of sense at all. He played this for me on a jukebox across from where we would later buy rings, and the song said everything about that moment, it slipped inside the promises we were making, the ones we would later fail to keep. I wonder if he remembers it at all anymore.
“Just a perfect day,
you made me forget myself,
I thought I was someone else,
At the start, we brought out the very best in each other, we pulled out the good parts, we were someone else altogether, together. We tried to hang on, over and over, the string cord being pulled and retracted, apart, then together again. But, in the end it was just that, the end, we could not forget ourselves any longer.
“Satellite’s gone up to the skies,
things like that drive me out of my mind.”
Stories are still forming with this one, some kind of bridge being built between memories and creation. A new character is spinning in circles to this song, she is singing background, with David Bowie, harmonizing and waving across the wavelengths in my mind. I keep hitting repeat while I try to bring her to life, out of the haze, out of the background, out of the lyrics and into the lines.