I exchanged emails with our Mr Music, Josh Durham, on why Lou Reed mattered:

— Tricky, see, I think John Cale played a part too — certainly in the atonal racket of the Velvets that’s seen as the blueprint for alternative rock from the 60s on. The cliche that only 30,000 bought The Velvet Underground and Nico when it came out — but everyone that did started their own band — maybe that was the Lou-inspired revolution?

— It was Brian Eno (quoted in interview). Yes, maybe Reed was the just the front man-poster boy for that sound. But he did write a lot of the lyrics — outrĂ© and hipster intelligent (his ode to his poetry teacher, and here), so there was an outsider narrative drive too?

— At the time of the Beatles’ Revolver the Velvets were singing… Cut mouth bleeding razor’s / Forgetting the pain / Antiseptic remains cool goodbye / So you fly

And… Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man / When I put a spike into my vein / … And I feel just like Jesus’ son

— And remember the immortals from Transformer (1972): Holly came from Miami, FLA … Shaved her legs and then he was a she … / Candy came from out on the island / In the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’ / But she never lost her head / Even when she was giving head …

— But back to the sound, Reed sang in his broken Brooklyn voice; imagine if the Beatles had recorded everything in Liverpudlian accents!

— Ya, he opened the door to the street: the voices, the sounds, the stories.

— His arrogance was crushing: “My week beats your year.” But, you know, he was only like 24 when he wrote this:

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
‘Cause I see you

from “I’ll Be Your Mirror,”
The Velvet Underground and Nico
1967

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