Monday, October 28, 2013

Tribute to Lou Reed and Delivering Newspapers, Late Night Pick: Hiatus Kaiyote

I'll always associate Lou Reed with delivering newspapers. Way back in 1982 or so, I was delivering newspapers for the Courier-Post, a South Jersey newspaper that was an afternoon paper on weekdays and a morning paper on weekends. The Walkman had just come out and my mom got one but I quickly assumed ownership of it to accompany me during my deliveries. Between my mom and I, we had very few cassettes at the time as they were quite the newfangled thing too. One of the tapes my mom had was Lou Reed's "Rock N' Roll Animal". I had heard the name Lou Reed, knew he was important in rock history, maybe knew "Walk on the Wild Side". I checked it out and loved it. This became my Sunday morning paper delivery album. There was something about popping that cassette in and starting my bike ride to where I picked up the papers with the beautiful twin guitar jam, melodic and then rocking, that starts "Intro/Sweet Jane" on a crisp, fall morning or a quiet, summer morning when the humidity wasn't too bad but promised to get hot later in the day. All alone, barely any cars or people out, the freedom of the bike and the feeling of good work, I would get to the paper box just about when Lou hit the stage to sing "Sweet Jane". I learned the song so well that I became somewhat famous within my fraternity for being able to play perfect air guitar to "Intro/Sweet Jane" channeling guitarists Dick Wagner & Steve Hunter and then Lou himself.

Sure, things took a dark turn when "Heroin" started. Dark, mysterious with dreams of sailing a thousand years ago, the warning "it's my wife and it's my life" and the apathetic surrender, "but I guess, I just don't know". It made the drug sound almost alluring but something about Lou's resignation said, "stay away, I've been there, it'll take you over".

Click. Time to turn the cassette over. The rock n' roll on this side was like a shot of caffeine to help me finish the route. And I needed it, because I was most likely up late Saturday night watching "Night Flight" or MTV or playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends, and I wasn't drinking coffee back then. "White Light/White Heat", "Lady Day" and "Rock & Roll" would drive me onward getting me through until I could get back home.

Later, I would hear more Lou. His "New York" album came out in college and I played it all the time in my room and on my college radio show. I would hear the Velvet Underground albums that spawned those songs on "Rock N' Roll Animal" in their more primal, raw forms and all the covers by those the VU influenced. I would listen to five minutes of "Metal Machine Music" before going "WTF?" like everyone else, including Lou. But I still go back on "Rock N' Roll Animal" and when I hear the opening notes of "Intro/Sweet Jane", I take a moment, bust out my air guitar, and remember those Sunday mornings on my bike, still mostly innocent, but with Lou about to tell me about the dark and weird and wonderful and romantic and frightening things that lurked out there in the back rooms and alleys and that if things ever got rough, "Despite the amputation / you could dance to a rock 'n' roll station / It was all right / it was all right".

Here is the obit from Rolling Stone:

Also, check out their 20 Essential Lou Reed songs:

Live Music Blog put together a nice piece on the many tributes from other musicians:

I also thought Lou's friend, Peter Gabriel, wrote a touching personal  tribute to his friend that captured the enigma of Lou:

Tonight's Late Night Pick is the Australian neo-soul, alternative hip-hop band Hiatus Kaiyote on The Arsenio Hall Show. Yes, Arsenio is back (Woof! Woof! Woof!). Arsenio is on WUPV at 11 PM here in Richmond. Check your local listings or Aresenio's site for times and channel in your area.

Tony Jordan