Lou Reed

I’ve always had an interpersonal connection with music, right from my earliest days as a young boy in the 1980s, where I remember vividly creative videos like Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, and Money for Nothing by Dire Straits. Music’s always been part of my life and it always will be. Music is a journey that sets particular checkpoints through time. Records attach themselves intuitively to new experiences. I see music as an iterative, fluid process, and each artist that lives and breathes today is the embodiment of another that lived yesterday.

This can be manifested in the most crass of ways: Oasis and The Beatles, for instance. But I also remember listening to Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth, Green Day, the Pixies, Bowie, Blondie, The Ramones, and the New York Dolls. Discovering each of those artists was a breathtaking experience on its own terms. Independent music that broke new ground and brought new meaning to the word “alternative.” And what brought all of those together, where those journeys almost always led to, was the Velvet Underground.

It is safe to say that Punk, Glam, Alternative Rock and Indie owe a huge amount of gratitude to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, for the innovative music that they produced and the space they created that allowed others to flourish. Yet they did it when the world around them did not appreciate them. Brian Eno said “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”. They weren’t just any band. It was pretty much every alternative band that have ever lived since.

In 1967 the band produced a record, The Velvet Underground and Nico (with the iconic Warhol banana) that even to this day still has a profound impact on the music industry – Radiohead is just one of the contemporary bands that have ancestral roots in Lou Reed’s music. And the album itself is just an absolute dream to listen to. The psychedelic Sunday Morning; the impossible love described in Pale Blue Eyes, and the simply brilliant Heroin which changes tempo to reflect the ‘hit’ of the drug described in the song; utterly majestic stuff that is unparalleled and will always be.

Lou Reed was an enigmatic, brilliantly talented, supremely cool, and instinctively humble guy who successfully blended high art with innovative music and poetic lyrics and I for one am deeply saddened he’s been taken away from us. Music is a huge part of my life and by proxy, Lou Reed was too. One in a million, Sir. There’s not many like you left.

Mx

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Indie music today

I have just had the displeasure of flicking through the most dreadful quality of music on Now That’s What I Call Music 84. I am most probably showing my age, but it was filled with turgid, manufactured piffle. I know that as a rule, those albums are mainly composed of pop artists but back in the day you could rely on at least some of it being good indie music – Pulp, Radiohead, Blur, and Oasis. The very best album I owned at the time was Urban Hymns by The Verve.  Today we are in the shackles of reunions because today’s bands just aren’t cutting the mustard.

We are in desperate need of a new rock supergroup to follow in the footsteps of Oasis, and start a new cultural revolution. Back in 1994, in a political climate not too dissimilar to today (growing up in a tough northern city which had been literally abandoned because of Thatcherism), Oasis – perhaps as an antithesis to the contemporaneous acid house music, most definitely wanting to build on the late 80s indie movement instigated by the Smiths and the Stone Roses and, without question, wanting to complement the growing influence of grunge pioneered by Sonic Youth and later Nirvana – took a style (i.e. ripped off the Beatles and 70s glam rock) and made it their own. But it was good. It was loud. It was fresh. It was music that defined and spoke for a generation and it was done by two normal lads who – for better or worse – fought like cat and dog, much to the thrill of the tabloids of the time.

I want to give the kids of today something else to listen to other than Justin Bieber, his counterpart Lady Gaga, the nice but bland Taylor Swift and the very worst of them all, One Direction. Where is the next indie supergroup going to come from? Remember, Oasis came when U2 and REM were riding high bringing music to the intelligentsia and that means it can happen today with Coldplay in a maturing state. The very worst thing to happen would be Noel Gallagher judging on X Factor. In the words of Thatcher, no, no NO.

Labour came into power at the height of Britpop in ’97, in the middle of a wonderful feelgood factor, and there’s much to say that they will do well in 2015. If so, we should welcome them in similar style.
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