The outpouring of sentiment following the announcement of Lou Reed’s death yesterday has been notable for the fact that it includes such a wide variety of admirers. Among my own “friends” and peers on social media, I noticed everyone from goth vampires to country fans paying respect. Business Insider offered a tribute that focuses on Reed’s contribution to the dissolution of Communist power in Czechoslovakia, otherwise known as the Velvet Revolution. Meanwhile in Texas, one of our state’s most beloved rappers had this to say:
Lou Reed was a brilliant song writer may he rest in peace
— SCARFACE (@BrotherMob) October 27, 2013
The artist’s activity in Dallas was minimal over the course of his career, though our own magazine had a somewhat prophetic story—regarding our city’s current state, at least—in its December 1999 issue, which was entitled The Impresarios of Avant Garde: How Dallas became a hotbed of the best new experimental art. In it, writer Shermakaye Bass paints this somewhat amusing scene of Lou Reed at the Rachofsky House, following a performance at SMU by the also iconic artist and musician, Laurie Anderson, to whom Reed was married:
Anderson is visibly exhausted, but she is perfectly poised and aware of the stir she is causing with her companion Lou Reed, the black-clad grand master of New York’s musical underground. Anderson is surrounded by admirers, yet few of them will actually talk to her. The house is filled with people who know that tonight this is the place to be. There is a subtle self-consciousness about the crowd that could be construed as a collective case of inferiority complex.
Except for a bold few, everyone at the reception seems tongue-tied, Dallas isn’t often shy. But tonight everyone seems aware that this is not New York, that there’s a big disparity in the cool factor between Reed and Anderson and everyone else. An occasional hipster shuffles up to the pair and murmurs something (“Cool. man. Loved the show.”) But one “Dallas lady” of indeterminate age and determined blondness, perfectly coifed, wearing an elegant hot pink suit and a gracious smile, Nita Spritzer, has no problem talking with the legendary Lou Reed. Not an apparently likely Dallas fete-set pairing, the two are absorbed in art-speak, pausing to admire Anderson’s multimedia sculpture in the Rachofsky collection.
In a completely different era, three decades prior, The Velvet Underground recorded what many die-hard fans consider their best live record in Dallas, at a long-forgotten psychedelic club with the self-explanatory moniker, The End of Cole Avenue. It has been released in multiple forms, but was accurately split into 1st Night and 2nd Night, earlier this year. It was originally released as part of 1969: The Velvet Underground Live.
According to various liner notes, reviews, and bits and pieces of patchwork bootleg history, the live album was the result of a sound engineer named Jeff Legood secretly recording the performance, and then being encouraged by the band to set up microphones more directly. You can hear a snippet of the 1st Night here.
As for my personal favorites from Reed’s career, I’ll leave you with a few less-heralded moments. The title-track from 1978′s Street Hassle includes some of the most disturbing imagery ever committed to tape, and the honest vulgarity of its lyric sheet could hold its own with most current records:
Then there’s former bandmate and Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker’s beautiful version of “Pale Blue Eyes.” Reed joins in on the emotional guitar leads. He claimed it was his favorite among the many cover versions:
Finally, there is this touching credit-roll performance in tacky 80s cult comedy, Get Crazy. Reed employs his seldom-used comedic talents at various points during the film, but this ballad has been playing nonstop in my house for the past 12 hours.
There is something so inadvertently tragic and yet simultaneously unsentimental about the bizarre setting, which I find to be a fitting balance to sum up Reed’s career. A man who willingly admitted he was in show business, while delighting in destroying it. Had he not done so, art and music would be much more collectively pedestrian:
“Cool Out” (The Crown and Harp): Tonight’s guest is New York’s Ge-Ology, who always seems to pop up in Dallas around Halloween.
Paul Slavens (Dan’s Silver Leaf)