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Music: Lou Reed

"My week beats your year."

Lewis "Lou" Allan Reed (19422013) was an American musician and songwriter, known for his work with The Velvet Underground and as a solo artist.

After the VU, Reed faced a largely commercially unsuccessful start to his solo career, before finding a hit with "Walk On the Wild Side" after collaborating with and following the glam rock influences of friend David Bowie. Since then, Reed mostly avoided writing songs that would typically be well-received commercially, to varying degrees of success. He explored many styles with his work, perhaps most infamously with the controversial Metal Machine Music. Reed was married to fellow musician Laurie Anderson.

Reed passed away due to liver disease on October 27th, 2013.

Albums

  • Lou Reed (1972)
  • Transformer (1972)
  • Berlin (1973)
  • Rock 'n' Roll Animal (1974)
  • Sally Can't Dance (1974)
  • Coney Island Baby (1975)
  • Lou Reed Live (1975)
  • Metal Machine Music (1975)
  • Rock and Roll Heart (1976)
  • Street Hassle (1978)
  • Take No Prisoners (1978)
  • The Bells (1979)
  • Growing Up in Public (1980)
  • The Blue Mask (1982)
  • Legendary Hearts (1983)
  • New Sensations (1984)
  • Mistrial (1986)
  • New York (1989)
  • Songs for Drella (with former VU member John Cale) (1990)
  • Magic and Loss (1992)
  • Set the Twilight Reeling (1996)
  • Ecstasy (2000)
  • The Raven (2003)
  • Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007)
  • The Stone: Issue Three (with John Zorn & Laurie Anderson) (2008)
  • The Creation of the Universe (2008)
  • Lulu (with Metallica) (2011)

"Hey babe, take a walk on the trope side":

  • Abusive Parents: "Endless Cycle". Also probably in "My Old Man".
  • Ambiguously Bi
  • Baroque Pop: Berlin
  • Big Applesauce: He's not called "The King Of New York" for nothing.
  • Breakup Breakout: His solo career was much more commercially successful than the Velvets.
  • Brooklyn Rage
  • The Cameo: "Street Hassle" has the, at the time, young and promising Bruce Springsteen drop by for a verse.
  • Concept Album: Berlin, Songs for Drella (with John Cale), Magic and Loss, and The Raven
  • Content Warnings: The somewhat erratic liner notes for Metal Machine Music end with them.
    As way of disclaimer, I am forced to say that, due to stimulation of various centers (remember OOOHHHMMM, etc.), the possible negative contraindications must be pointed out. A record has to, of all things. Anyway, hypertense people, etc., possibility of epilepsy (petite mal) psychic motor disorder etc., etc., etc. My week beats your year. - Lou Reed
  • Cool Old Guy: Reed had ascended to this status by the end of his life. He was an avid Mac fan and also put in an appearance at the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.
  • Cool Shades / Sinister Shades: One of his visual trademarks.
  • Country Matters: Used in "Street Hassle" to emphasize the Mood Whiplash when the song goes straight from a rather explicit sex scene to a woman dying of an overdose.
    Hey, that cunt's not breathing, I think she's had too much of somethingorother...
  • Cure Your Gays: When he was 17, his parents had him undergo several weeks of electroshock therapy to cure him of his "homosexual tendencies". Judging by the song "Kill Your Sons", he was somewhat less than grateful.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: He was already very well-regarded among critics and musicians, but When Reed died in 2013, tributes poured out from nearly every corner of the Internet.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: "Halloween Parade" is about realising how many of his friends have died of AIDS (although it is explicitly named as such in the liner notes, the disease's name is never mentioned on the album itself). Averted in the case of Magic And Loss, which goes into more detail than you want to know about watching someone die of cancer.
  • Distinct Double Album: Metal Machine Music
  • Epic Rocking: Frequently, especially live, but the crowner is the studio version of "Like A Possum" at 18.02.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: "Families", "Standing on Ceremony"
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Sad Song," which is a sad song. If you ignore the lyrics it might not seem like it at first though.
  • Gayngst: "Families" can be interpreted as such.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: His hit, "Walk On the Wild Side" features the line "But she never lost her head/Even when she was giving head" (as well as multiple usages of the already outdated and offensive term "colored" to refer to African-Americans) and got (and still gets) a lot of airplay.
  • Grief Song: Songs For Drella and Magic And Loss are both grief albums (for Andy Warhol and Doc Pomus, respectively)
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: "Women" could be interpreted this way, although it's more likely intended as an anti-Misogyny Song.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather
  • I Call It Vera/Names to Run Away From Really Fast: When he couldn't get the proper distortion out of his guitar, he had a friend build a gadget called the Death Pedal.
  • Insufferable Genius: Probably one of the best real life examples of this trope.
  • Jerkass: Both main characters of Berlin qualify. Caroline is serially unfaithful, a neglectful parent, and so on, while Jim is a domestic abuser who gets custody of their children taken away from her purely out of spite and doesn't feel any remorse after his mistreatment of Caroline drives her to suicide, and in fact rationalises it by saying "somebody else would have broken both of her arms". Of course, it's also possible that some or all of Caroline's characterisation is a case of Unreliable Narrator, since we mostly have to take Jim's word for her actions and various things he says throughout the course of the album suggest that he may not exactly be the stablest individual out there.
  • Live Album: Rock N Roll Animal, Lou Reed Live, Take No Prisoners
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Walk On The Wild Side" is a smooth, hooky pop single... about drugs and prostitution.
  • Misogyny Song: Inverted with "Women".
  • My Greatest Failure: How Reed regarded Berlin. It was perhaps the most ambitious thing he ever did, but it flopped commercially and was savaged by critics (though it was retroactively deemed one of his best albums).
  • New Sound Album: Fairly frequently, especially considering his shift to glam rock, followed by "Noise Rock" and experimentation with various musical styles.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Averted. Reed had a notoriously bad attitude and was never afraid to say what he meant.
  • Obsession Song: "Satellite of Love" and pretty much all of Berlin. Reed considered jealousy "a destructive, horrible emotion" and his work could sometimes get Anvilicious about this (although it was also frequently misinterpreted, as on Berlin - we're not actually supposed to like the characters on that album).
  • Ode to Intoxication: Played straight ("The Power of Positive Drinking"), subverted ("Street Hassle") and averted ("Waves Of Fear")
  • Piss Take Rap: "The Original Wrapper" features Lou rapping. It's hard to tell if it was meant as joke or not, but either way he's not very proficient at it.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Sex With Your Parents" is basically one long setup about how Moral Guardians do what they do to hide the shame of having had sex with their parents, ending with
    Here in the big city we have a word... By God, we have a name for people like that...
    Hey, motherfucker!
  • Protest Song: Several songs on New York: "There Is No Time," "Hold On," "Last Great American Whale," "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim," "Dirty Blvd."
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: To a certain extent with John Cale — VU turned away from the assault of White Light/White Heat to a more accessible direction under his lead, and when Punk Rock broke Reed was recording singer-songwritery albums and dismissing the movement while Cale jumped on the bandwagon and recorded harsh material like Sabotage Live. Then again Cale also recorded the Baroque Pop Paris 1919 and Reed recorded the infamously abrasive Metal Machine Music so it's not like this trope defined their post-VU careers.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "I Wanna Be Black"
  • Rock Opera: Berlin about two doomed lovers in the titular city, and Songs For Drella about Andy Warhol
  • Sampling: Sort of.. Street Hassle opener "Gimmie Some Good Times" features a riff very similar to "Sweet Jane" and even opens with a few lines from it, though it's newly recorded and no literal sampling takes place.
  • Self-Deprecation: When the record company made him put out Lou Reed Live, cobbled together from the same show as Rock And Roll Animal, Lou made sure the last sound on the album was a fan in the audience shouting "LOU REED SUCKS!"
  • Self-Titled Album: His solo debut.
  • Sex by Proxy: Suggested in "How Do You Think It Feels?"
    "How do you think it feels
    To always make love by proxy"
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: During The Seventies, and Reed was even told "to clean up his act" by David Bowie, himself no stranger to substance abuse at the time, if he wanted him to produce another album.
  • The Sixties: "The Day John Kennedy Died"
  • The Something Song: "Sad Song", "Who am I? (Triptena's Song)"
  • Spoken Word: His singing often borders on this.
  • Take That: Notably on the live album Take No Prisoners, where he calls Village Voice critic Robert Christgau a "toe fucker", and he also takes a potshot at Patti Smith by shouting "Fuck Radio Ethiopia! I'm Radio Brooklyn!".
  • Three Chords and the Truth: "One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords is jazz."
  • Wham Line: "This is the place where she cut her wrist" in "The Bed".
  • Your Cheating Heart: Caroline's (possibly imagined) unfaithfulness is a major catalyst for a large amount of the plot in Berlin.

Richard PryorCreator/Reprise RecordsThe Replacements
Red Hot Chili PeppersCreator/Warner Bros. RecordsR.E.M.
Velvet UndergroundAlternative IndieVerdena
The RamonesCreator/Sire RecordsThe Replacements
Gerry RaffertyRockREO Speedwagon
The RamonesThe SeventiesBerlin

alternative title(s): Lou Reed
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