Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Lou Reed Who?

The newspapers have been filled with people declaring Lou Reed as a musical genius and influencing all manner of artists who came behind him.
To me and almost everyone i have asked, he was the guy who sang a few lines on the 'Perfect Day' BBC Charity single and 'Walk on the Wild Side' but after that i draw a blank.
As a man who was such a wide influence on punk, Rock, Grunge and pretty much everything, he has a pretty small repertoire of well known songs.
I just don't understand it, i see him as a very minor player in the wide scheme of musical things but maybe i somehow managed to completely miss his tremendous impact while he was alive which judging by his record sales, most of us did.
If only a few more of the people currently gushing over what a giant of the music scene he was said so when he was alive, he may have sold a few more records and more people wouldn't need just two fingers to count the Lou Reed songs they know.   


Cheezy said...

The fact that the average twat in the street might not know more than a couple of Lou Reed songs is hardly a damning criticism of him and his art. Quite the opposite really.

Lucy said...

Well i must have only spoke to average twats in the street about him because the vast majority of the twats, and i count myself as a twat in the street in this case, named Perfect Day and Walk on the Wildside and then ummed and erred and shrugged which, for a man who was supposedly such a musical giant and with a career spanning 40 years is not a good return.

Cheezy said...

Only if Lou's concern was delivering hummable melodies to the widest possible audience would his career be considered 'not a good return'.

If this was the measure of musical greatness, then the writers of advertising jingles would be considered among the Gods.

Lucy said...

If he set out at the start of his career to spend his life writing songs nobody much cared for, then i agree, it was mission accomplished.

Cheezy said...

I must admit I'm having trouble appreciating your perspective on this one.

It seems that just because you and the handful of people you've spoken to on the matter haven't heard many of his songs, this causes you to conclude that he's not a particularly important figure in rock music.

This would be a bit like me considering that I've only seen a couple of Caravaggios - therefore he must have only been a minor figure in the development of Baroque art in the early 17th century. Not very logical really.

Your comments also seem to suggest that a) great artists should have sales at the heart of their concerns, and b) if these sales don't count for much, that this is some kind of indicator about the level of their artistic achievement.

Considering we're stranded on a planet in which the most popular band in the world is currently One Direction, this viewpoint is more than slightly amusing to me.

Great art is great art, whether millions of people buy it, 58000 people (what 'The Velvet Underground & Nico', one of the greatest albums ever, sold within one year of release), or if nobody at all buys it.

Lucy said...

My perspective is that i have never heard any musician ever cite Lou Reed as an influence on them and then when he dies we are tripping over them because actually, turns out he was a major influence all along. He must have slipped their minds i guess.

I am struggling to work how how you believe someone can be such a huge influence with such a short reach.
Not following your logic at all on that one or how One Directions popularity equals influence because i'm hearing as many people quote OD as the reason they took up singing or songwriting as i did Lou Reed before he died.

Cheezy said...

"i have never heard any musician ever cite Lou Reed as an influence on them"

Well, if this is true then you need to read much more widely on this matter. You really couldn't be more wrong in portraying Reed as a 'minor figure'.

This article here sums it up fairly well, but in some ways still only scratches the surface in terms of outlining the influence.

I understand that Lou Reed has only just recently invaded your own personal consciousness because of the news of his death, but you shouldn't presume from this that he's a similarly obscure figure for a great many others. Cos he's not.

Lucy said...

I come back to my original statement that he had a 40 year career and most people can only name 2 of his songs which is a poor return for someone who is now being acclaimed as a major player and my other claim that i never heard anyone cite him as an influence until he died. As a major player in the history of the music industry, he patently wasn't despite the attempt at the re-writing of musical history by some people to try and make him so.
Fair enough you liked him and his music but to the vast majority, he was the guy who sang the Perfect Day and Walk on the Wildside songs and that was the sum total of his contribution.

Cheezy said...

"most people can only name 2 of his songs which is a poor return for someone who is now being acclaimed as a major player"

I feel you're totally missing the point here. The fact that 'the vast majority' only know two of his songs has no effect on his vast influence on musicians who themselves became extremely influential on the music that followed.

"i never heard anyone cite him as an influence until he died.

To state the obvious, just because you don't read something, this doesn't mean it hasn't been said/written. I suspect you didn't read the article I linked to. It contains a litany of the musicians he influence and who - yep - all acknowledged the debt many years before he died.

Who gives a nutty one if Sharon the hairdresser from Romford has only heard 'Perfect Day'. Or if Dan the White Van Man from Chatham hasn't heard of Lou Reed at all? This issue has zero impact on what we're talking about. So let's put this 'vast majority', who Sharon and Dan represent, out of our minds.

"Fair enough you liked him and his music"

This has nothing to do with my (or your) personal opinion of either him as a person (who could be a real arsehole) or his music (I love some, like some, hate some).

I suspect it's mainly to do with you trying to make a valid point (about famous people being revered beyond all proportion in the wake of their death) but happening upon entirely the wrong example to illustrate your point.

Anonymous said...


my reaction was the same as yours. and it may have been hyped on this side of the pond more than on your side.

Yet, i think cheesy has offered an irrefutable, highly logical, data based response. i was very surprised to see a linkage to punk.


Lucy said...

It is about people being revered beyond all proportion when they die and Lou Reed is a perfect example exactly because Sharon and Dan can only name 2 of his songs.

I am struggling to understand the logic behind your argument as to how can you be held up as a musical giant if your appeal was so limited? If Dan or Sharon are not listening, who is being influenced? That is what I keep coming back to.

Anonymous said...

did you read the article cheezy linked?


Cheezy said...

Q - I think the fact that Lucy is still wondering exactly who it was that Reed influenced is providing us with the answer to that particular question.

Anyway, yep, the early Velvet Underground stuff was a massive influence on the punk scene, alongside other bands like the MC5 and Iggy & the Stooges.

Then again, you could argue that Reed was an even bigger inspiration for both the look and the sound of glam-rock.

Lucy said...

No i didn't read it, i couldn't garner the required interest so decided let Cheezy carry on believing what he believes and the rest of us will carry on dismissing him as a scribble in the margin of the history of music book and humming along to the only 2 tunes we know.

Cheezy said...

I don't know who "the rest of us" is supposed to be, but I don't know if there'd be many other people who would join you in presuming that their precise lack of knowledge about a certain subject (in this case the thousands of musicians who have cited Lou Reed as a major influence) somehow render them an expert in this same subject...

So you might be on your own there!

As for the 'music book' you mention, it's interesting that you say this. That's because I'd be interested if you could find me even one serious music journalist who dismisses Reed's influence on the development of rock'n'roll.

Cos I can give you, well, basically every music journo I can think of who'd beg to differ with that opinion e.g. Lester Bangs, Nick Kent, Greil Marcus, Charles Shaar Murray, Victor Bockris, Alexis Petridis, Andy Gill, etc, etc...

So just one who disagreed would be interesting for me to read.

That's if you can garner the required interest of course. I'm sure you can. I have confidence that you, like me, think that no knowledge gained is ever a wholly wasted effort.

Cheezy said...

I'll help you out by giving you the headline of the story I linked to--

"Lou Reed: The Most Cited Influence in Rock ‘n’ Roll?"

Hmmm.... Well, maybe he is, and maybe he ain't, but the fact that it's a valid topic for discussion perhaps suggests that someone who, prior to his death, had "never heard any musician ever cite Lou Reed as an influence on them" is, with the greatest of respect, possibly not the best qualified person to try to quantify his impact upon the genre.

Lucy said...

Interest waned a long time ago, i'm pondering two billion planets now but feel free to keep banging that 'Lou Reed is a great' drum if you want and i will disagree with you and the music critics and maintain that i never heard anyone ever cite Lou Reed as an influence. I have heard the likes of Elvis, Beatles, The Who, Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly and Bob Marley, all big names who had the body of work and the reach to be 'influential' quoted numerous times by numerous artists but never Lou Reed until he died. Nothing we can do about that now, obviously something about him that didn't connect with listeners.

Cheezy said...

"i will disagree with you and the music critics and maintain that i never heard anyone ever cite Lou Reed as an influence."

I find it odd that you keep saying this, when it's already been established that your subjective experience doesn't reflect the objective truth. Why do you assume that because something hasn't been a part of your personal experience, then it can't have happened? Especially after I've proved that it has indeed happened? I'm a bit surprised.

Anonymous said...

really cheezy. surprised?