Lou Reed — Remembering the Old Crank
Rumors went up and down the intertubes until the New York Times confirmed that Lou Reed died at the age of 71. That the heavens required Reed's services came as a shocker to those who assumed Reed would live forever, as most cranky old folks usually do. Apparently, his wife Laurie Anderson softened him up just enough to be vulnerable to human frailties and sweet emotion.
I've listed a top 25 of sorts, of songs that look over his long career and then spend most of the time going back to those early Velvet Underground albums. In fact, as you'll see, there's an entire album out there that couldn't be broken up for the sake of a silly list.
But, for real, Lou Reed, rest in peace.
25) "Coney Island Baby"
The title track to the album of the same name, "Coney Island Baby" is that moment on record where Lou tries a little tenderness and rubs one off for the coach. Man, he liked confusing his fans. Just when you thought he had the gay life figured out, he remembers his days playing football. Like most things Lou, you wonder if it really happened. Only Butch Firbank knows.
24) "Romeo Had Juliette"
The trick to making a comeback album is to make sure you have a leadoff track that screams "I'm Back!" and this rhythmically moving, poetically deserving tune had all the cosmic vibrations working for it.
23) "How Do You Speak to an Angel"?
Few people likely pay much mind to Growing Up in Public, an album with less critical cache than Berlin, Street Hassle, The Bells, or The Blue Mask. Yet its opening cut begins gently and then turns a valid high-school question into a battle with the Death Star.
22) "The Day John Kennedy Died"
Icons know iconography works best if you draw links between you and history. Championing the little guy is good practice, but you still want to be able to take on BIG historical subject matter to prove you can go big when others go home.
21) "Last Great American Whale"
My friend Richard Riegel thinks Lou was subconsciously writing about Lester Bangs. I assume he's writing about himself and then passing it off as Delmore Schwartz. Any which way, it's a touching piece of meat.
20) "Street Hassle"
I'd take the entire album, but the title suite has a classy artsy-fartsy way that tickles me for its deliberate non-R'n'R approach. At a time of punk rock, for instance…
19) "Kill Your Sons"
Here's one of those four-chord rockers that anyone can play in their sleep. Few, if any, could've written the words.
18) "Sad Song"
Berlin is still a tough album, no matter how classic it has become. Lou saved his best for last, with a song you imagine he heard as a singalong classic among his audience.
17) "Beginning to See the Light"
Do we believe Lou when he turns positive? Sure, anybody can have a good day and/or a need to stop dwelling in the dark. That he made the option for happiness a consistent struggle is what keeps it real for people who judge things by who's keeping it real.
If you don't love this song, I must question your humanity. It's like "Hallelujah" for the economical set.
15) "I Can't Stand It"
The Velvet Underground version, of course. For all the Velvets' acclaim as an avant-garde, experimental group for the "high-I.Q., low virtuosity stratum of alternative and underground rock around the world," according to the New York Times, the Velvets also knew how to rock and this track, among others, shows that simple, elusive ability.