It's kind of twisted that it took Lou Reed's death to shake me out of my pablum-induced trance, the one where Justin Timberlake and Kanye West and Katy Perry and other current Pepsi-sponsored radio airwave riders are somehow mistaken by me as quasi-acceptable musical fare. You ride around with a 15-year-old girl long enough and it's amazing how dangerously close you can come to tolerating Adam Levine's auto-tuned soprano. It's another sign of our definite slide into the abyss, considering, especially, the recent New Yorker profile by John Seabrook on today's definition of a music titan: Dr. Luke. The subtitle of that profile? "A Technique For Producing No. 1 Hits."
No wonder Lou had to take his jaundiced exit. He experimented and stuck out his middle finger to the establishment and invented music. He died in an age with "hits" are written via algorithms.
I'm not saying Reed's music never sounded as good as the day Reed died, but something very much like that. Is that vicious? I don't think so. Has there been anything else on the radio over the last 40 years that sounded like a man literally spitting out like a giant I Heart NY hocker oxymoronic recriminations about getting hit by a flower?
After Lou Reed, and his "twins" Patti Smith and Sid Vicious, only Kurt Cobain has crashed through the airwaves with that same the level of instantly identifiable rock, art and culture game-changing fury. And even Sid Vicious, whose Sex Pistols-era name came from Reed's classic, "Vicious," was probably too dependent on Reed's pre-curser-to-punk influence to be considered a true original and worthy of being uttered in the same paragraph.
But it seems like Reed built the pyramids, or invented the cotton gin, it was so long ago that rock bent the trajectory of our cultural lives. It all came flooding back last week, the day music died. Again. Here in Seattle, KEXP did a fair job running through the requisite Reed classics. "Wild Side," "Sweet Jane," my all-time favorite, "Vicious." For an entire day, it was as if the world stood still, but in a kind of agitated, exciting, fresh way. Lou Reed died. Lou Reed lived.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.