THE ONE THING THAT remained fresh and untainted for Lou Reed throughout a switchback life and chaotic career – and despite the disdain he expressed for pretty much everyone and everything else – was his heartfelt love of rock’n’roll.
That love sustained him through a troubled childhood in New Jersey, remained with him during teen years scarred by the electroconvulsive ‘therapy’ prescribed to cure so-called anti-social behavior, and survived the collapse of his prescient group, The Velvet Underground at the dawn of the ’70s.
In the course of an in-depth tribute to Reed in the latest MOJO magazine – which features an alternate cover with Reed as cover star – legendary US rock’n’roll scenester Danny Fields tells MOJO about what happened when he played Reed the Ramones for the first time… on November 7, 1975.
“That is without doubt the most fantastic thing you’ve ever played to me!” exclaimed Reed. “It makes everybody else look so bullshit and wimpy - Patti Smith and me included, man!”
“Johnny Ramone? Oh, leave me alone! It’s what everybody’s been waiting for.”
Reed then asked to see a photo of the group. “Ah! It’s too perfect! They are their own dream! You gotta be kidding! Johnny Ramone? Oh, leave me alone! How can they not be monsters? Jeez. It’s what everybody’s been waiting for.”
Elsewhere, Mark Paytress’s insightful piece probes the layers of scar tissue that protected the ‘real’ Lou Reed – someone the ‘real’ Lou Reed was generally uninterested in revealing.
“Performer beware,” wrote Reed in a 1971 essay entitled Fallen Knights And Fallen Ladies, where he identified with rock’n’roll’s roll-call of casualties. “If you come looking for love, come prepared with a thick skin or a thick heart. Don’t depend on anyone.”
Paytress draws on the interview he conducted with Reed for MOJO mere weeks before the singer’s death, where Reed’s defiance remained undimmed by recent, and ultimately fatal, bouts of ill-health. One quote kind of sums Reed up, then, now and forever:
“I am what I am… and fuck you!”
Lou Reed & Patti Smith by Richard E Aaron © Getty Lou Reed in MOJO magazine by Mattia Zoppellaro