By Lachman Balani
TORONTO: They say if you remember the 60s – you weren’t there! What with all the experimental mind altering substances like peyote, Psilocybin and the various forms of LSD (yellow sunshine, purple haze, pink Jesus and Mr. Natural to name a few). So I will attempt to do my best.
I came into contact with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground when I first heard their album, ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico (a German singer)’. That album only sold a sad total of 30,000 albums and it is said that most everybody who bought that album went on to form a rock band – such was its influence. This album set the tone for almost all the following rock artists to expand and challenge conventional musical boundaries.
Despite poor sales, Lou Reed had a great (velvet) underground following. Campuses were alive with talk of how great an artist he was, but that he had poor managers. His cutting edge and tremendously avant-garde material people said was directly related to electrical impulses that he received as a teenager to cure him of his bisexuality. This experience was later put into his song ‘Kill Your Sons’ in the 70s.
In an interview he said, “They put the thing down your throat so you don’t swallow your tongue, and they put electrodes on your head. That’s what was recommended in Rockland State Hospital to discourage homosexual feelings. The effect is that you lose your memory and become a vegetable. You can’t read a book because you get to page 17 and have to go right back to page one again.”
Lou Reed was constantly trying to find himself and trying to come to terms with what he really was and to express it through music.
Though he boasted few chart hits, Reed’s career-long compulsion to test rock’s musical and formal boundaries opened up vast new avenues for later exploration by many aspiring and achieving rockers.
Reed had a worldwide impact on rock and roll’s development as a genre that could accommodate and, in fact, encourage aspirations to high art and literature. Reed’s spiky, provocative lyrics tackled the experiences of drug addicts, transvestites, street hustlers and depressives with a directness and empathy heretofore unheard in American popular music.
He was respected by not only musicians but also many other icons. Even the famous author Salman Rushdie tweeted his condolences, saying; `My friend Lou Reed came to the end of his song. So very sad. But hey, Lou, you’ll always take a walk on the wild side. Always a perfect day.’
I only saw him once in concert and even though he is most remembered for his immortal song ‘Walk on the wild side”, I will always remember him for the tremendously haunting melody of his ‘Heroin’ and the lyrics that till today sends cold vibes through me. The song starts off slow and then picks up momentum just like you were shooting heroin.
“I don’t know just where I’m going But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can ’Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man When I put a spike into my vein And I’ll tell ya, things aren’t quite the same When I’m rushing on my run And I feel just like Jesus’ son…
Yes it looks like he finally made peace with himself and has joined his father Jesus in heaven!
May his soul rest in peace!
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