by Jessica Colarossi
“One chord is fine, two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”
That sums it up. Alternative and punk rock the way we know it would have been inexistent without this style influence from none other than rock pioneer Lou Reed.
Friends, family, musicians and music lovers from all over came together to honor Lou’s unfortunate death at the age of 71 this past Sunday. Celebrities, writers, actors/actresses and musicians, ranging from The Who to Josh Groban to John Cusack, had a least a Tweet or two to commemorate and celebrate the influential music Lou brought to the world of rock n’ roll.
Lou was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942, and studied poetry Syracuse University with poet Delmore Schwartz, where he started writing his own lyrics and poetry for the first time. It was after meeting classically trained violinist, John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Moureen Tucker, that the Velvet Underground was formed during the mid-sixties. They immediately caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who incorporated them in his Exploding Plastic Inevitable. (Also, that is where the Velvet’s iconic yellow and black banana CD cover for 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico came from, of course.)
After making three records with the Velvet Underground, Lou left the band to make solo music in England during the 1970s. Decade staples like “Walk On the Wild Side,” which is an evocation of Warhol’s Factory scene (and became a radio hit) and “Satellite of Love” which was covered by U2 and some others came out of this drug-infused, experimental time.
The 1980s for Loud Reed was a much more mellow time. He married Sylvia Morales opening a new window for him musically. His 1984 album New Sensations took a more commercial turn and 1989’s New York was filled with satirical, political humor that received universal praise and criticism. In 1991, he collaborated with life-long friend John Cale on a tribute to Warhol, Songs For Drella. Velvet Underground reunited for a series of European shows three short years later. He continued making music through the entirety of his life, even just two years ago when he collaborated with Metallica on main-stream rock album LuLu.
1970s and 1980s interviews with Lou have reemerged on music publications all over the world, such as Rolling Stone’s 1989 interview that can be read here. The Velvet’s 1967 debut, landmark album The Velvet Underground & Nico has been sitting in the iTunes top 100, as well as their 1970s record Loaded, which has ground-breaker song “Sweet Jane.” The Essential Lou Reed, his 1972 solo album Transformer and 1974’s Rock and Roll Animal have also jumped back on to the top sellers as people are revisit the music of one of America’s great rock heroes.
With over 50 years’ worth of tracks, Lou made it simple to recognize by describing each record as a “chapter in his Great American Novel,” which he told Rolling Stone in 1987 during an interview. Music to Lou was a form in story telling, which is something all musicians should aspire to do. He made it okay for music to be cut down and brought to its raw essential sounds that defines punk rock the way it’s heard now. Here are some essential Lou Reed music that everyone should hear.