RIP: Lou Reed, Pope Of Alt-Rock, Dead @ 71


ROLLING STONE: Lou Reed, a massively influential songwriter and guitarist who helped shape nearly fifty years of rock music, died today. The cause of his death has not yet been released, but Reed underwent a liver transplant in May. With the Velvet Underground in the late Sixties, Reed fused street-level urgency with elements of European avant-garde music, marrying beauty and noise, while bringing a whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry. As a restlessly inventive solo artist, from the Seventies into the 2010s, he was chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn. Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example. “One chord is fine,” he once said, alluding to his bare-bones guitar style. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” MORE

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: When it comes to rock and roll these days, it would seem you can’t trust anyone under 30. The last youngster to be passed the torch wound up shooting himself in the head. That is not leadership.Take Lou Reed, who turned in a four-star performance Wednesday night at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. Back in the day, he did his share of the sex-and-drugs part of the rock equation – and then he did everyone else’s share. Today, he’s clean, straight and as happy as can be expected in this world. He’s 58, and what a long, strange trip it’s been: from dope-fiend gutter poet to PBS-christened American Master; from playing Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable with the Velvet Underground in the ’60s to performing for Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel at the White House. MORE

ROCK SNOB ENCYCLOPEDIA: Underground, Velvet: To paraphrase Lester Bangs, we will never agree on anything like we agree on the Velvet Underground. Though largely despised during their time as an active recording unit in the mid- to late-’60s, the Velvets continue to represent the final frontier, a borderless free-range of artistic postures and tonal sensibilities for succeeding generations of rock snobs. Beginners are well advised to start with the urban magic realism of their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, also known as The Banana Album. Easily 20 years ahead of its time, this seminal classic paints a graphic portrait of the cruel vanity and supersonic velocity of life in Warhol’s factory scene: a hipster funhouse of hustlers and homosexuals; artists and fakirs; needles and whips; speeding supermodels and jet-set glamour. The lyrics cue the music’s whiplash fluctuation from gentleness to juggernaut, and if you listen closely you can distill the parts from the sum: Nico’s diva-of-doom vocals; the tomboy stomp of Maureen Tucker’s trashcans-and-tambourines drumming; the post-hypnotic suggestiveness of John Cale’s viola; the sweet jangle and sitar-like clangor of Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison’s tangled guitar interplay. The saying goes that almost nobody bought The Velvet Underground & Nico when it came out, but everyone who did started a band. Here’s hoping that in every generation to come, some kid finds it and changes music again. — JONATHAN VALANIA MORE