Lou Reed was the ego to Iggy Pop's streetwalking cheetah id and Bowie's grandiose glam super ego. His stories were seedy, but he told them like Homer: epic, sentimental, otherworldly but, simultaneously, strangely familiar. To invoke a second Freudianism in only three sentences: Lou kept the uncanny weird enough to remain off-beat, but endowed the queers and proto-hipsters that lived in his lyrics with the humanistic relatability of Top 40 pop.
He worked on song constructing assembly lines on East Coast hit factories, and produced a double LPs worth of guitar feedback. Metal Machine Music did to rock and roll what Bitches Brew did to jazz: smacked it right upside the head. Like Miles Davis, Neil Young, and other near-mythological musicians, Lou was barely done inventing sub-genres before he was alienating his most recent fanbase with something completely different.
No matter the material -- proto-punk art rock, garage, elaborately produced cabaret-style balladeering -- and no matter how close-minded the critics, whatever he pursued was inescapably Lou Reed.
In recent years, the once leader of the Velvet Underground, had been snuggling up to the role of elderstatesman. His aforementioned feedback opus, Metal Machine Music, was revived during the mid-'00s via a series of likemindedly blaring concerts. In an issue of experimental music rag, Wire Magazine, from last year, Lou was the featured listener in the regular Invisible Jukebox section. The premise is classic: The Wire pulls records and plays them without any indication of who the music is by and what is its context. Then, the musical guest is asked to respond verbally to the anonymous tunes before them, and the transcript is printed. When Lou was in the hot seat, he kept turning to his assistant, and snapping at him like an old queen while demanding he take notes about all of the new music he was hearing. He then released a record with Metallica, because, especially at that point, he was Lou fucking Reed.
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