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Lou Reed - A Personal Tribute

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 6 / 11 / 2013

Lou Reed - A Personal Tribute


Anthony Strutt pays personal tribute to the late Lou Reed

Sunday the 27th October 2013 was a very sad day for the world of music. We lost a true rock legend. I first heard Lou Reed when I listened to the Velvet Underground’s second LP ‘White Light/White Heat’ in a small bedroom in Lewisham in the late 1970s. Until that time I had just been a Beatles fan, but David Toynton, my best friend then and now, had recently opened my eyes up to punk rock. Now with money in our pockets, we were discovering music that wasn't played on the radio or by our parents whowere still stuck in a disco bubble. ‘White Light/White Heat’, and its songs like ‘The Gift’and ‘Sister Ray’, seemed like they came from another planet. By 1984, I had left home, and was introduced to a bigger picture, a bigger world and more Velvet Underground music by Phil, another friend of mine, who remains another massive VU collector. The times they were, however,a changin'. Lou Reed even broke through into the mainstream with appearances on shows like ‘Whistle Test’, and it was from here on that I really got into him. While the world loved ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, I adored 1984’s single ‘I Love You, Suzanne’ and his 1986 album ‘Mistrial’. I didn't see Lou live until 1992 on the ‘Magic and Loss’ tour, after he had released what I thought then was a string of solid albums. During the same period I saw him for a second time when he did a poetry reading at The National Theatre, which I believe my then girlfriend managed to get for us almost the last tickets in the house. It was here that I first met Lou as he walked in, and I handed him my CD copy of ‘White Light/White Heat’ which he politely signed. I believe that I may have shaken his hand as well. I know I definitely brought a signed copy of ‘Between Thought and Expression’, the book of his lyrics that night. The next time I saw Lou live was a year later for the reunion shows for the Velvet Underground in 1993 at the newly opened Forum in Kentish Town, which had previously been my favourite ever venue, the Town and Country Club. The gig cost £15! £15 to see the Velvet Underground! Lou was charging £18 to see him by himself at the time. The gig was a dream, and afterwards I spoke to the band and both Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker. They refused to sign anything until once they were on their mini coach, and then we were allowed to pass in items to get signed. All I had was my ’Velvet Undergound and Nico’ album and my gig ticket, but they signed those. I was on a high, and that CD remains my most treasured signed item. The next night I saw the Velvet Underground again at the dreadful Wembley Arena. It lacked the same air as the night before, even though they played an additional song. Over the years, I saw Lou live another seven or eight times, and, strange as it may seem, I never saw him play a bad show. Perhaps it helped that I always liked the newer material. I especially enjoyed the ‘Berlin’ shows in 2007, even though that album wasn't one of my favourites, but the shows I saw to promote the ‘Set the Twilight Reeling’ album at Shepherds Bush Empire in 1996 and ‘The Raven’ at the Barbican in 2003 were perfect. ‘The ‘Raven’, which takes its inspiration the poetry and short stories of from Edgar Allan Poe, was another highlight for me as I love Poe. It was after this show that I met him for the last time, and, although he was mobbed by fans, I managed to get the rest of my Velvet Underground CDs signed. The last time I saw him live was sandwiched between Patti Smith And Iggy and the Stooges at the Hop Farm in 2011, where he played what I thought was a decent set. ‘Lulu’, his 2011 final album with Metallica, was an album I bought to complete my collection, but it still remains unlistened to. For most of my time as a Lou fan, he didn’t disappoint me, and he remains the cool dude I fell in love with the first time that I heard ‘White Light/White Heat’ back in 1979.

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