More than a few times I've had the conversation with people of, maybe they're a Beatles fan or a Rolling Stones fan. Or a Zeppelin fan. I hate that conversation for a number of reasons (since i'm more of a Yoko Ono or Marianne Faithful fan). But if I had to choose one classic rock band as such, it would be the Velvet Underground.
I remember when I convinced my parents to buy a new needle for their record player (this must have been in the year 2000)? I dug the crates of my parents records out of the garage. My dad didn't have anything that interested me, but my mom did. My favorite was The Velvet Underground and Nico. The cover was worn because my mom had tried to peel off the banana sticker. I listened to that album until it warped. I spent much of high school and college poring over Velvet Underground albums, outtakes, b-sides. I got into Lou Reed's solo work, some. But not as much as I could have (or as much as I'm about to). When I made my first real performance art show in New York it was in 2007 at Dixon Place. La JohnJoseph let me open for him one of the nights of the Hot Festival. I ended the performance (an early version of Lover, Ferocious) with a remix of "Satellite of Love". JJ told me about the remix, he tells me about all cool things.
This song has been very important to me over the years. I'm having a hard time explaining why. It's kind of optimistic and grandiose and romantic and sweet. Lou Reed meant a whole lot to me, because he was a fucking weirdo queer. He wrote songs about being sent to psychiatrists for being gay. He wrote songs about his girlfriends and their druggy and sexy and existential exploits. He wrote songs about ambivalence, about being bored, about being freaked out and lonely and nervous. But also happy and funny. Expansive. He influenced everyone.
I try not to go into sentimentalism for pop stars. Especially white boy middle-class ones. But growing up in the suburbs as a lonely kid with no friends, I did think (as many of us do) that the world would not make a place for me. That I was too freaky, queer, weird, fucked-up in the head, whatever. That there was no place for me to go, or no way for me to operate and make a way for myself in the world. And Lou Reed's music seemed to be proof of some alternate world. A world in which you could be banal and sexy and dark and weird. But still have friends. But still get to make music. And get to treat your weirdo arty pervert feelings as material enough for making music. You could be like that; a weird dude and still be part of the world. I am really sad he's gone.