Lou Reed. One of the musical threads that holds the tapestry of my life in place.
1988. The Royal Hotel, Bury. Watching Henny playing pool with Danny. Boys in jeans with long hair and check shirts. Take a Walk on the Wild Side on the jukebox, with Sarah by Thin Lizzy and Hendrix and Deep Purple. Something about those lazy sounds and the nonchalance, the casual ease that said “whatever floats your boat, dude.” – those great jukebox hits that taught us to appreciate the older guys, that said it wasn’t all about anger and the hard edge. This was the sound of Saturday afternoons out of the rain when the day took the edge off the hard nights. Transformer was 15 years old that year – just like me. We grew up together. Me and Transformer and Hunky Dory. Long before the long haired freaks hit The Royal, it was just a place where a few kids could go for a beer if you didn’t fancy hanging out with the townies at the Knowsley or the wannabe gangsters at the Clarence. Old Men’s Pubs overtaken by kids in dirty jeans and motorbike jackets.
Satellite of Love is my favourite from this album though. Lou and Bowie at their best.
1991. The Doors movie. I saw this maybe four or five times in the newly opened multiplex in Bury – it’s the only thing I did between March and May that is of any significance. Caught up between a boy with a thousand faces and a boy who was not unlike the young Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise. The soundtrack to that movie became the soundtrack to my summer. The last great summer before I went to Sheffield. The summer when I still had a bit of the naive child left in me. Heroin by the Velvet Underground was the only modern track on the soundtrack beyond those by The Doors.
1992. Brixton. July. Lying on the floor in Jewels’ place, him plaiting my hair and talking about Marx and Lenin, God and angels. Oatmeal pancakes and fresh orange juice, pink rice from the Turkish takeaway. Me feeling glad I’d taken Sociology and being able to keep up a little bit with the smartest guy I ever knew. You don’t have to be a scholar to be smart. He knew me better than I knew myself. I know he told me then that I would always be a champion for the underdog, a collector of lost souls. He was right. On starry nights, I hope that he goes out onto the shores of Lake Maracaibo and looks up at the heavens. I look at star scenes every time I can. They always remind me that we see the same things, just a different way around.
1996. Bolton. Another soundtrack to my life. Trainspotting. Another Lou Reed track. The first time it would be in my life. Perfect Day. A different group of friends. A different time. It was the summer of endless energy and staying up all night, falling asleep in a heap of friends. No idea why but my endearing memory of that time is a lighter that fell onto the fire. We put the fire out, forgot about it, then switched it back on a few hours later. There were colossal fireworks. Still young enough not to think of the damage it could cause.
2001. Bolton. Perfect Day Mark II. Me singing karaoke in a bar with Andy’s best friend Kev in a Chinese restaurant. I did my first marathon the next day and I ate nothing but boiled rice to stock up on starch. It was the night when I took the last, best photograph of Andy – him doing a stupid pose like Doctor Evil in Austin Powers. This is the way your life unfolds. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
I guess there are a good few people out there who have a Lou Reed soundtrack of their own. The Velvet Underground & Nico deserves a blog post all of its own. Not only did Lou Reed play well with Bowie, but with another favourite of mine too – John Cale. And anyone who read 50 Shades looking for a little titillation would do well to look to Venus in Furs. There’s more to do with kinky sex in those five minutes than there are in three entire books, without hardly mentioning sex.
Ultimately, though, pioneer as he definitely was, Lou Reed’s works will no doubt have left a mark on many people’s lives. If you do one thing today, dig out a copy of Transformer and spend a little time remembering where Lou was in your life. It seems to me like he holds together many pieces in the patchwork of my teenage years.