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Farewell to Lou Reed... acerbic poet, artist and music genius


 Lou Reed

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

LOU'S dead. Lou Reed, that is.

It can be a sh*t world, for sure.

Widely regarded in rock 'n' roll as an even greater curmudgeon than V** M******n, I'm here to tell you the guy was a saint.

Okay, maybe that's pushing it. But he was a proper poet, with an enormous streak of genuine goodness and a soul that just couldn't contain the levels of sensitivity he felt.

Sure, he sometimes barked at people. But you probably would, too, if you'd been through the stuff that Lou had had inflicted on him.

When he was 17, Lou was subjected to months of electric shock therapy in an attempt to "cure" him.

It didn't stop him writing poetry. Or the lyrics which he turned into songs. Songs that fuelled his band. Not just any old band.

The Velvet Underground, which in turn launched thousands of bands worldwide and songwriters who were, and are still being, inspired by Lou Reed's work.

Most of those songs were too brutally honest in their observations of life and people to feature in the mainstream. Except occasionally. And the few times Lou slipped under the radar will forever be emblazoned on the Great Pop Memory Bank.

Walk On The Wild Side. C'mon. That's author Hubert Selby Jr condensed into three minutes of pop genius.

Perfect Day was knocking about for almost quarter of a century before audiences who watched the violence 'n' smack flick Trainspotting helped turn it into a hit, which would later be covered by Susan Boyle. And Boyzone.

I'm sure Lou loved that. From even before he began hanging out at Andy Warhol's Factory in the 1960s, he wanted people to hear his songs.

Of course there was much more to Lou Reed's talent than those two big hits. There remains a series of sensational solo albums that includes Transformer, produced by Lou Reed fan David Bowie, New York, the songs' subject matter encouraged by Bono who advised Lou, and, of course, one of the bravest albums in the rock canon, Magic and Loss, a meditation on the death of friends.

I recall him telling me without rancour, "That's one of the best things I've ever done. It's also gone unnoticed."

I didn't fret at his discomfort because Lou made great art from disappointment, sadness and heartbreak. As an artist, Lou didn't take prisoners, didn't hold hostages to fortune. Unlike most musicians working in the popular music arena, when he created something he went straight for the jugular.

I remember him telling me about his own recordings, "You like it or you don't like it but at least you get to hear the heart of it."

This was years after I'd paid my own little tribute to Lou. Back in the day, I was working in a recording studio and knew that the television cameras were going to be there so when I got out of bed I threw on a Street Hassle T-shirt.

That cycle of music can still send shivers down my spine.

Later we became kinda like friends. I tried, in vain, to hook him up with Senator David Norris for an evening of James Joyce. Lou wanted it to happen. He liked Joyce. Yeats, too. And others besides. But it won't happen now.



I knew he'd been ill and I meant to drop him a line. I didn't I'm afraid. But I hope his partner Laurie Anderson is bearing up.

If I work at it I might take a small crumb of comfort from an observation Lou once made to me about jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott, who Lou had featured on some of his recordings and concerts.

Jimmy had been criminally sidetracked by the record industry for decades but made a sensational return.

Lou loved his work and told me in awe, "He's a remarkable guy. He won't say goodbye at airports. He just disappears."