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.