Lou Reed: a guide to his best albums

When American rock critic Lester Bangs described Lou Reed as “a completely perverted perverted and pathetic death dwarf; a liar, a waste of talent, a constantly flowing artist and a hockey player who sells pounds of his own flesh,” he describes a hero.

Few artists in rock’n’roll history are as enigmatic as Lou Reed, and few have created a work body as influential, irregular and controversial as Reed’s, first with the cynical artist The Velvet Underground and then as a soloist. artist.

Born Lewis Allen Reed in Brooklyn, New York on March 2, 1942, he was always an outsider. As a teenager he underwent electroconvulsive therapy to “cure” homosexuality. In his early 20s he left university to work as a songwriter on Pickwick Records where he wrote innovative pop songs, in stark contrast to his love of experimental jazz.

It was at Pickwick that Reed met the Welsh classical musician John Cale. The couple formed a band called The Warlocks, which by 1965 had mutated into The Velvet Underground, which includes Reed on guitar and vocals, Cale on bass, viola and instrument, Sterling Morrison on second guitar. and Maureen ‘Moe’ Tucker on drums.

The Velvets were an out-of-date band. Their debut album, released in 1967, was the antithesis of Summer Of Love hippie idealism. Reed’s lo-fi sonics and dark lyrics proved to be very uncompromising for mass consumption, but the Velvets’ influence will be passed down from generation to generation, from David Bowie to punk rock onwards. It was Bowie who helped Reed achieve his groundbreaking success as a solo artist, co-producer of Transformer 1972, the album that featured two of Reed’s favorite songs: Walk On The Wild Side and Perfect Day. But pop stardom did not suit Lou Reed, and in 1975 he attempted suicide with Metal Machine Music, an album composed entirely of guitar reviews.

This maverick screenplay spans Reed’s entire career, as evidenced by his last two albums: the 2007 Hudson River Wind Meditations environmental electronics, and his incredible collaboration with Metallica at Lulu in 2011. But with the guitar hand, Lou Reed created his final work as a classic anti-rock’n’roll hero: the outsider, in black leather and shades, the original poster boy for sleek heroin, the New York poets’ award winner.


The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve, 1967)

The Velvets debut album was a flop chart, and was rejected – or, worse, ignored – by the mainstream rock press. But four decades later, it has been recognized as one of the most innovative and influential rock records of all time. Reed was his architect, writing only most of the songs.

And although they sang three songs by Nico (considered “deaf-mute” by Cale), it was Reed who defined Velvets’ dark aesthetic with his raw guitar style, vocals and divergent lyrics, depicted in the love letter that was heroin. Reed’s foreground was an avant-garde rock’n’roll masterpiece. See the Deal

Lou Reed – Transformer (RCA, 1972)

Reed’s solo debut included various Velvets remnants and, oddly enough, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman of Yes. It was no surprise that it sold better than the Velvets albums. The second, released just six months later, made him a superstar.

Starring David Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson, Transformer caught the mood of the glam-rock era with the cover of Mick Rock by an androgynous Reed and some classic pop songs – most notably Satellite Of Love and Perfect Day – Bowie material in the early 1970s. . The album even gave Reed a Top 10 hit Walk On The Wild Side, despite reports of drugs and oral sex.

Lou Reed – New York (Sire, 1989)

Not for Lou Reed, Sinatra’s Theme swing from New York to New York, or Woody Allen’s Manhattan romance. Redd’s portrait of his homeland had been taken from the bad roads he knew so well in his years. New York is essentially an original album, with instructions from Reed to “sound like a book or a movie in a meeting”.

Withered satire dominates, with Dirty Blvd. one of the many funny vignettes. Dirty Blvd. is also fundamentally a wonderful rock’n’roll song, and New York is an album full of them. It’s a Reed career classic. See the deal

Lou Reed – Berlin (RCA, 1973)

Rolling Stone magazine listed Lou Reed’s third solo album as “Sgt. Pepper of the ’70s “. Many have since called it the most depressing album of all time. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Berlin is undoubtedly Reed’s most exaggerated statement. With a rich production and an all-star star including Steve Winwood, it is an original opera-cum-rock opera: the story of a doomed romance fueled by drugs, said Reed in the style of a fire singer. Awarded the Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom. In the US the album dropped and Lou returned underground. See the Deal

The Velvet Underground – Loaded (Atlantic, 1970)

Aside from referring to the band’s drug reputation, the title of the band’s fourth studio album was also a sneak peek at the new Atlantic label, which signed the band after their rejection by Verve / MGM and requested an album “loaded with successes” .

In a sense, Reed surrendered. Loaded is by far the friendliest VU radio album, with Sweet Jane the most engaging and effortless rock’n’roll song he has ever written. Reed left the band a month before the album was released. Two years later, Velvet Underground had disbanded and Reed finally hit the Transformer.View Deal

Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby (RCA, 1976)

After the commercial disaster of Metal Machine Music in 1975, Lou had his back to the wall. “I had no money and no guitars,” he admitted. Reed had to promise his record company that he would not do “Son of Metal Machine Music” and he was as good as his word.

Coney Island Baby is the classic Lou Reed, described in Rolling Stone as “timeless, amazing rock’n’roll”. Reed has never written a more beautiful song than the album track. A bitter-sweet lament, reminiscent of Dylan’s best work of the 1970s, ends with the redemptive mantra: “The glory of love can see you.” In desperation, Reed dug deep. See the Agreement

Lou Reed – Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal (RCA, 1974)

The best of Reed’s 11 live albums were partly a response to the harsh criticism and poor sales of ambitious Berlin in the US. As its thorny title suggests, Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal had Reed return to the basics, repeating Velvets songs, while confirming his popular image as the “junkie-in-chief” of rock.

Reed is backed by a classic five-piece band with guitarists Dick Wagner (a future side of Alice Cooper) and Steve Hunter. The fancy licking turned Sweet Jane and Rock ‘N’ Roll into an unstable rock arena, while the album’s central track, a crazy, 13-minute version of Heroin, could do no more to charm Reed’s drug of choice. .

The Velvet Underground – White light / white heat (Polydor, 1968)

The creation of this, Velvets’ second album, began and ended with a power struggle. First, Andy Warhol was fired as the band’s director, and Nico went with him for relief. More damagingly, a rift developed between Reed and John Kale, which ended with Kale leaving.

However, White Light / White Heat was a strong and cohesive collection. Galvanized by their new independence from Warhol, the band dropped the pop element of their debut album in favor of visceral noise. Cale described this new ethos as “conscious anti-beauty.” See the Deal

Lou Reed – New Sensations (RCA, 1984)

In the early 1980s, Reed quit drinking and drugs, and regained his credibility with two classic cult albums: The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts. What followed was the most accessible project of his entire career. Shockingly, New Sensations was Reed’s illuminating sound.

I Love You, Suzanne, the most optimistic pop song Reed has ever written, set the tone, while the reckless funky part of the title committed him to “eliminate my negative views”. The album was not a success (No. 56 in the US, No.92 in the UK). Maybe the public just wouldn’t buy a happy Lou Reed. Five years later, gloomy New York proved to be a more effective comeback. See the Deal

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