In many ways I have been influenced more by the concept of Lou Reed than by his actual work. I love the fact that he made a career out of thumbing his nose at traditional conventions and cut new trails that subsequent artists would ride to superstardom. However, simply breaking rules does not define a song as a pleasurable listen. Still, two of his albums did find their way onto my iPod playlist.
The first is Lulu which is a collaboration with Metallica that was released last year. This work is noteworthy for it’s total disregard for commercial appeal, combining Lou’s jarring spoken work delivery over Metallica jams. For the most part it is a very difficult listen, but one that pays off with the closing track, Junior Dad, which finally seems to mesh the two talents and fulfills the promise of the odd-ball pairing.
While in no way “commercial,” 1989’s New York is far easier to listen to. The carefully interwoven lyrics paint a snapshot of the city as it feels the effects of Reagan’s conservative revolution. The album not only celebrates New York’s unique character but is also a call to action against threats to its most vulnerable residents. Liberal conventions were also pushed against, as there is no attempt at political correctness and even Jesse Jackson gets a dressing down.
While Reed’s walk on the wild side may have ended, his legacy will be enduring. He leaves behind his own “little liberal army in the wood,” his fans and others influenced by his poetry and music.
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