I can’t remember the first time I heard a Lou Reed song, but I know I was young. I have a vague recollection of my parents’ living room, and my brother playing Transformer on the huge record player. I want to say I remember him singing along to “Walk on the Wild Side.” I might have been 8.
That particular incident didn’t have a strong impact on me, I don’t think, but Lou’s music always seemed to be in the background of my life. It was one of those things I always knew would be there. Anytime I tuned into a classic rock station, I’d be likely to hear “Sweet Jane,” or “Walk on the Wild Side.” The music was there at the right time, when I needed it.
Do you remember the first time music really changed how you looked at art? I remember the feeling I had right after the first time I heard U2’s cover of “Satellite of Love.” It was an intense depression, the realization that I’d never create anything that perfect, that moving.
Lou Reed, the Poet of New York, painted the landscape of city living I wanted. Transformer was on in the background when I moved with my girlfriend into a two-room efficiency apartment on 13th and Spruce Streets in Philly. I wrote poetry to old Velvet Underground songs. I listened to “Heroin” shortly after a young guy I knew died of an overdose. Lou Reed provided the soundtrack to my urban life.
There may have been a month when, if you had asked me if Lou Reed intentionally wrote his music just for me, just to match my life experiences living in Philly, I would consider answering in the affirmative.
And here I am, 15 years away from that wanna-be Poet of Philadelphia, the old guy who occasionally listens again to old Velvet Underground songs, listening to “Satellite of Love” again and, just for a moment, crying in front of a computer. I’m just aware enough to be a little embarrassed. What do I say to my kid if he comes in while I’m wiping the tears from my cheeks? “This guy’s music has been with me my whole life?” Lou Reed introduced me to Andy Warhol, who taught me to laugh at my own art. Lou Reed got me into Patti Smith, who taught me that its the expression that’s important. Lou Reed got me into Iggy Pop, who taught me that punk isn’t about being angry.
And if you were to ask me, right now, if that was intentional, if he told my brother via whatever psychic energies they shared in the 70’s that afternoon to play that album, so I could hear a song that would eventually lead to the soundtrack to a formative part of my adult life…maybe I want to believe it.
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