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Music / Lou Reed

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Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.

"My week beats your year."

Lewis "Lou" Allan Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013) 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 following a liver transplant on October 27, 2013.

Studio Discography:

  • 1972 - Lou Reed
  • 1972 - Transformer
  • 1973 - Berlin
  • 1974 - Sally Can't Dance
  • 1975 - Metal Machine Music
  • 1975 - Coney Island Baby
  • 1976 - Rock and Roll Heart
  • 1978 - Street Hassle
  • 1979 - The Bells
  • 1980 - Growing Up in Public
  • 1982 - The Blue Mask
  • 1983 - Legendary Hearts
  • 1984 - New Sensations
  • 1986 - Mistrial
  • 1989 - New York (1989)
  • 1990 - Songs for Drella note 
  • 1992 - Magic and Loss
  • 1996 - Set the Twilight Reeling
  • 2000 - Ecstasy
  • 2003 - The Raven
  • 2007 - Hudson River Wind Meditations
  • 2011 - Lulu note 

Live Discography:

  • 1974 - Rock 'n' Roll Animal
  • 1975 - Lou Reed Live
  • 1978 - Live: Take No Prisoners
  • 1984 - Live in Italy
  • 1998 - Perfect Night: Live in London
  • 2001 - American Poet
  • 2004 - Animal Serenade
  • 2004 - Le Bataclan '72 note 
  • 2008 - The Stone: Issue Three note 
  • 2008 - Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse
  • 2008 - The Creation of the Universe

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

  • Abusive Parents: "Endless Cycle". Also probably in "My Old Man".
  • Audio Adaptation: Lulu is a musical adaptation of two nineteenth-century plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind, which were controversial at the time of their release for their frank depiction of sexuality, violence, prostitution, and lesbianism, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in theatre similarly to the way Reed's music pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in popular music.
  • Avant-Garde Music: Some of his music could be considered to fall into this category, especially with The Velvet Underground. Lulu is Avant-Garde Metal.
  • Baroque Pop: Berlin
  • The Big Rotten Apple: New York
  • Brooklyn Rage: Born in Brooklyn, and had a legendary temper.
  • The Cameo: "Street Hassle" has the, at the time, young and promising Bruce Springsteen drop by for a verse.
  • Child by Rape: This line in "Busload of Faith":
    You can bet that if he rapes somebody
    there'll be no trouble having a child.
  • 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 centres (remember OOOHHHMMM, etc.), the possible negative contraindications must be pointed out. A record has to, of all things. Anyway, hyper-tense people, etc., possibility of epilepsy (petite mal) psychic motor disorder etc., etc., etc. My week beats your year. - Lou Reed
  • 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" note . Judging by the song "Kill Your Sons", he was somewhat less than grateful.
  • 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.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
  • Epic Rocking: Frequently, especially live, but the crowners are the studio version of "Like a Possum" at 18:02 and "Junior Dad" at 19:30.
  • Empty Shell: The title character of "Billy" by the end of the song.
  • 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.
  • Fear Song: "Waves of Fear" describes a panic attack in detail.
  • Gayngst: "Families" can be interpreted as such.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: A common theme through Reed's work. He believed that jealousy was a destructive emotion.
  • 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: One of his visual trademarks was his leather jacket.
  • "I Want" Song: "I Wanna Be Black", where Reed professes his desire to be a black man.
  • 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 rationalizes 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 characterization 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, among others.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: If you'd never heard "Walk on the Wild Side" before and just listened to the backing track—a smooth, upbeat, hook-filled bit of jazzy folk-pop with some light orchestral strings in the second half, you'd never guess in a million years that the song had lyrics that dealt with drugs, male prostitution, transsexuality, and oral sex.
  • Misogyny Song: Inverted with "Women". Played straight in "There She Goes Again", with the line "You'd better hit her", though it may have been intended as a deconstruction, since it's based around jealousy, which Reed called "a horrible, destructive emotion". Domestic Abuse is also a major component of Berlin; Jim attempts to justify his actions at the end of the album by saying "Somebody else would have broken both her arms", but we're clearly not actually supposed to like Jim.
  • 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.
  • 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 set-up 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."
  • Proto Punk: He is seen as one of the most influential artists in the genre.
  • 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 had been recording proto-punk music for years, e.g. on 1974's "Fear". 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; Songs for Drella, about Andy Warhol,; and Lulu, based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind.
  • 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 'n' 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
  • Shout-Out: Delmore in "My House" is Delmore Schwartz, American poet and writer, whom Lou met at university.
  • The '60s: "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!".
    • "Dirt" is a very fiery song that's reportedly aimed at an ex-manager of his.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim" is one of these directed at then-President of Austria Kurt Waldheim who was found to have historical ties to the Nazi Party. However, Lou detours to dedicate an entire verse to deliver another one to Jesse Jackson over his perceived anti-semitism.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: "One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords is jazz." Of course, quite a lot of his work averts this (such as Berlin).
  • Uncommon Time: Occasionally. The opening of "Junior Dad" is in 9/4, for example.
  • Unreliable Narrator: There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Jim is this on Berlin.
  • Wham Line: "This is the place where she cut her wrist" in "The Bed".