Prior to my freshman year of college in 1985, all I really knew about Lou Reed was "Walk on the Wild Side" (which, despite its narrative of transgression and Lou's invocation of "colored girls," was and remains a classic rock radio staple) and, er, "I Love You, Suzanne." That all changed upon first meeting Jay Freeborne in the Denison University library (we immediately spotted each other and recognized one another as kindred spirits, as I was wearing a Circle Jerks t-shirt and he was wearing a Talking Heads t-shirt ... this in a roiling sea of Polo, Brooks Brothers and J. Crew). `Twas Jay that was a fairly pivotal figure in expanding my horizons beyond hardcore punk, gothic rock and heavy metal to embrace further-flung music like King Crimson, The Stooges, Berlin-era Bowie, The Feelies and yea verily The Velvet Underground. All it pretty much took was one spin of the title track to White Light/White Heat and I instantly hooked on the Velvets, soon to hungrily seek out more.
Finally steeped in the hills and valleys of Lou Reed's catalog (and the valleys are admittedly deep), I started spotting Lou himself around town. I've got a pretty shaky track record about accosting my idols on the street, but I knew better than to badger Lou, his reputation for being surly having long since solidified itself. I spotted him walking north out of Times Square, just steps away from the Brill Building. Some time later, I saw him clothed entirely in martial arts gear walking west out of St. Marks, just a stone's throw from the old location of the Electric Circus, where he performed with the Velvets as part of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Neither time did I become Johnny Fanboy and gush. One left Lou alone. That was kind of the rule.
As I said back in this post, my favorite anecdote about Lou Reed comes from, I believe, John Strausbaugh's "Rock `Til You Drop." Lou was doing an in-store record signing at the old Tower Records on 4th and Broadway (now the .... ugh ... MLB Man Cave), and Stausbaugh attended with then-Soul Coughing frontman M. Doughty (who used to pen a music column for New York Press under the colorful nom-de-plume, Dirty Sanchez). Before joining the line, wise-ass Doughty/Sanchez ran and fetched a copy of an album by Lou Rawls, and brought that up to be signed, a gag that made even the notoriously thorny Lou Reed crack up.
Anyway, there's not much more I can say about Lou Reed that isn't being similarly expressed in more eloquent prose than mine via a thousand different outlets right now. Many are quick to point out that he hadn't made a significant album in some time (let's just not discuss Lulu right now), but they can all go to Hell. Lou Reed's passing is a huge loss, the world is a poorer place because of it.
The photo above comes from a future post by my friend Bob Egan of PopSpots, who amazingly tracked down the exact spot pictured on Lou's debut solo record. Egan never fails to amaze me in that capacity.
More about Lou Reed on Flaming Pablum....