Friday, March 02, 2007

Lou Reed at 65

Lou Reed is sixty-five. For the third time, I caught the beautiful documentary Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart (1998) and found it better than ever. This time, after two more stints in Manhattan, I could follow more nuances in every direction. Increasingly, everything seems interconnected.

The 75 minute Grammy-winning film, part of the "American Masters" series, provides a helpful overview of Lou Reed's career, starting in the early 1960s and ending in the late 1990s (in real time since this came out, Lou keeps working).

I love how it starts out. Lou talks into a mike: "Disliked school, disliked groups, disliked authority; uh, I was made for rock and roll." Segue to the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll" superimposed over an Andy Warhol screen test of Lou. Boom, take off through the Velvets and solo career.

Lou is one of the more literary of all rock stars, and his brief tutelage with poet Delmore Schwartz at Syracuse University is covered, as well as some of his other literary influences (William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Jr., etc.)

Made very clear is Lou's love and respect for Andy Warhol: "He was our protector -- no one cared about us." The Velvets became Warhol's "house band," and were soon joined to create their first album with Nico Superstar. Lou on Nico: "Here was this goddess . . . All right, we'll have a chanteuse. . . why not?" And the VU morphed into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, with writer-artist Mary Woronov and Gerard Malanga as "whip dancers."

In addition to excellent concert and New York City footage, there's a string of interview snippets from many of the main players and allies (some of it archival): besides Reed, John Cale; Maureen Tucker; Sterling Morrison (1942-1995); Andy Warhol; Mary Woronov; Gerard Malanga; David Bowie; Patti Smith; Jim Carroll; Candy and Little Joe ("Walk On The Wild Side"); Thurston Moore; Suzanne Vega; Václav Havel; and others. The real find this time was beautiful Barbara Rubin (1946-1981), the person who connected the Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol. She is stunning, and though she only appears briefly for the 1965 period, I want to know more. Apparently she died from an infection after childbirth at 35 years of age or so.

This powerful documentary does indeed bear repeated viewings. I love when it kicks into "New Sensations" (1984), which mentions the Delaware Watergap near where I was born. I remember how excited I was when this one came out, too -- not to mention seeing him live, an experience akin to seeing Bob Dylan.

Here's a link to Lou Reed's website.

Today's rune: Fertility.

Other birthdays: John Irving, Tom Wolfe, Theodore Geisel / Dr. Zeuss.

Viva Lou Reed! Viva Rock and Roll!


JR's Thumbprints said...

Hard to believe that Lou Reed keeps going and going and going. I love the Cowboy Junkies version of "Sweet Jane." More so, than the original version.

Johnny Yen said...

Lou is just the shit, isn't he?

I think that New Sensations is an underappreciated album. Love the title track and Doin' the Things We Want To (his tribute to Sam Shepard and Martin Scorsese), What Becomes a Legend Most.... great album.

From the Velvets on, he's been phenomenal. I've seen him only once, with my late friend Mark, in 1990 or '91-- on the "New York" tour. The Feelies opened. Lou played the entire New York album, then a bunch of old favorites. Great show.

I'm with JR on the Cowboy Junkies version of "Sweet Jane"-- ethereal and lovely. Lou loved the version as well, I'm told. Saw the Cowboy Junkies perform it, in another show Mark dragged me to.

Lou wrote a sweet, loving obit for Sterling Morrison in the New York Times Magazine in December of 1995-- you know how they do the obits at the end of the year.

Erik Donald France said...

Sacrilege! They sound like they're on quaaludes to me on that version. Seriously, thanks for the comments and yes, New Sensations is really good. The song "I Love You Suzanne" got me in hot water, though, merely for it existing (a jealousy issue). Oh, the power of art to stir the passions ;)

Danny Tagalog said...

Hey Erik,

What about Berlin. I love the album, but feel guilty about enjoying The Bed, due to the stories about it's making.

Yes, he IS the shit. Will have to check out his recent stuff soon.