Talent for Honesty

You can always imagine Reed and his characters talking directly to you, as if they were standing next to the song as it played, not entirely convinced by this whole “music” scam.

New Yorker obituary, 27 October, 2013 by Sasha Frere-Jones

The thing I always liked about Lou Reed's writing was his lack of fear. He wrote his reality. He experimented. He spoke about the world that the "straight person" doesn't see.

What I didn't realise until he died was how strange it was that this honesty broke through to the mainstream. There were two songs about transvestites or transsexualism on radio when I was growing up. One was 'Lola' by the Kinks. The other was 'Walk on the Wild Side' by Lou Reed.

I remember 'Lola' as a novelty song. It has a twist at the end that says "oh, you never expected that!" But Lou Reed spoke about trannies and prostitutes like they were real people. While they weren't people I knew in my sheltered factory sub-urbanism of Moorabbin, I came to know them later in life. Their existence wasn't a shock to me in the same way it was to the Kinks because I was introduced to the many facets of the world through song.

Glenn Peters linked to this great video of Reed being interviewed at Sydney airport. He treats the journalists with an amazing contempt. All their questions treat him as an outsider, a misfit or a sideshow. He reflected that back at them.

[Insert trite "I'll be your mirror" reference here.]

Disclaimer: I don't own any Lou Reed solo albums and only one Velvet Underground album. I just think he was a great artist. This is not an obituary but more a comment on my understanding of his art, inspired by SFJ's quote. So there.