Born March 2, 1942, Lewis Allen Reed, in Brooklyn, NY.
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Lou is now fifteen. He's enthralled by the early rock n roll and doo-wop he hears on AM radio. By this time, Reed is not only an avid record collector, but an ambitious musician as well. Young Lou manages to record and release a single of his own, "Leave Her For Me," (B-side "So Blue,") credited to his group The Jades. His first royalty check comes to about seventy cents.
After a brief stint at NYU, Reed enrolls at Syracuse University. Here, Lou befriends the ill-fated but brilliant poet Delmore Schwartz, and meets soulmate guitarist Sterling Morrison. Both men have a profound influence on Reed's life and art.
Reed graduates from Syracuse with an English degree. Lou has already written "Heroin," "The Gift," and roughly "Kill Your Sons." Soon after graduation, Reed is an assembly-line songwriter at blatantly commercial Pickwick Records in Long Island City. Anonymously, he tosses off danceable ditties like "The Ostrich," the hilarious "Cycle Annie," and "Sneaky Pete."
Reed quits Pickwick, and one half of the soon-to-be Velvets takes shape. Reed is introduced to classically-trained multi-instrumentalist John Cale. Cale and Reed rent an apartment on Lower East Side of NYC. They run into Syracuse pal Morrison on a subway train. The three begin to rehearse together, fleshing out Reed's mostly acoustic songs. With the late addition of drummer Maureen Tucker, the newly-christened Velvet Underground play their first gig at a Summit, NJ high school.
After a stint at Cafe Bizarre in NYC, Reed and the Velvets are discovered by poet Gerard Malanga and Barbara Rubin, members of pop artist Andy Warhol's entourage. Warhol eventually takes the fledgling Velvets under his wing. They are to be the featured musical act in Warhol's multi-media Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Soon, German model turned chanteuse Nico is added to the Velvets' lineup. At Warhol's behest, Reed writes three beautiful ballads for Nico: "Femme Fatale," "I'll Be Your Mirror," and "All Tommorow's Parties." Live, Reed and the Velvets play their first West Coast show at the Trip in Los Angeles. The Velvets mesmerize and shock the hip crowd, including a pre-Lizard King Jim Morrison.
1967 The Velvet Underground & Nico is released on MGM's Verve label. This astonishing debut was recorded in 1966 for a few thousand dollars-- the recording of it split between studios in both NYC and LA. Because of the tight budget, most of the songs are done in one take. From tender ballads dealing with urban paranoia, ("Sunday Morning") to fuzzed-out power-chord romps about white boys doing the notorious Harlem shuffle, ("Waiting for the Man,") the album aptly closes with the extended, experimental free-form chaos of "European Son," dedicated to Delmore Schwartz. The ahead-of-its-time Velvet Underground & Nico barely registers in the top 200. You know the story: it was a commercial failure in its day, but greatly influenced the forthcoming "new wave" of music. In late '67 the Velvets begin recording the wildly experimental White Light/ White Heat. Years later, the album is widely regarded as the musical template for the mid 70's New York City art/punk explosion. Reed, with a nod to free jazz, unleashes some of the most ferocious guitar freakouts ever put on vinyl. The unrelenting "Sister Ray" clocks in at almost twenty minutes. Reed and the band drop their affiliation with Andy Warhol
John Cale leaves the band. Bassist Doug Yule is recruited from Boston's Grass Menagerie. Velvets record "ghost album" of songs on the west coast--a batch of tracks that get lost in the mail. Getting little to no airplay in NYC, Reed and the Velvets boycott the Big Apple and don't perform there again until 1970. Their live shows at Boston's Tea Party, The Second Fret in Philadelphia, and End of Cole Ave. in Dallas are the stuff of legend.
The Velvets' third studio effort, The Velvet Underground, is released. It features Reed's wordplay at its introspective best. The album's extremely spare arrangements reflect not only a shift in the band's personal philosophies, but also the fact that, according to legend, their fuzzboxes were stolen en route to the recording studio. Later in the year, the Velvets begin work on their most accessible album to date, Loaded. Reed has already written the radio-friendly, soon-to-be classics "Sweet Jane," and "Rock and Roll."
After the Velvets complete a lengthy residency at Max's Kansas City, Lou announces that he's leaving the VU. He then moves back to Long Island
Lou makes his way once again into NYC. Meanwhile David Bowie launches the massive Ziggy Stardust tour. The Velvets' "White Light/White Heat," and "Waiting For the Man," are a regular part of Bowie's set list. Bowie publicly acknowledges the Velvets' heavy influence on his music. Reed meets Richard and Lisa Robinson, two important music industry insiders. The Robinsons are consummate Velvets fans, and are instrumental in securing Lou a solo recording deal with RCA.
Reed joins David Bowie onstage in London for a rendition of "White Light/White Heat." Reed also completes work on his first solo effort for RCA, simply titled Lou Reed. The album features reorchestrated versions of previously lost Velvets material, not to mention some interesting new compositions. On the record, Reed employs the talents of studio wizards Caleb Quaye, and Rick Wakeman.
Reed mines his Warhol/Factory experiences for much of the material on Transformer. Reed's sexy, literate songs-- namely "Satellite of Love," and top twenty smash "Walk On the Wild Side,"-- nail the zeitgeist. Bowie's support and Mick Ronson's brilliant production help make Transformer an international hit. The somber, yet brilliant Berlin is also released in 1973. The album isn't a commercial success, but is considered an artistic triumph by many. Reed begins U.S. tour.
Reed's electrifying live performances culminate in the albums " Rock N Roll Animal," and "Lou Reed Live." His backing band, sparked by blazing guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, heavy-metalize VU nuggets such as "Sweet Jane," "Rock and Roll," and "Heroin." Reed attracts a vast new audience. "Rock N Roll Animal" sells in the hundred thousands. Yet glam-rock is already on the wane.
"Sally Can't Dance," Reed's third solo studio album, climbs to number 10 on the album charts. Soon after, Reed begins putting together material for his next project, the doo-wop inflected Coney Island Baby.
Reed, featured on the cover of Legs McNeil's groundbreaking Punk magazine, is proclaimed "The Godfather of Punk.
Reed ignores his contemporaries' concessions to disco and puts out the hard-rocking, explicit Street Hassle. Later in the year, Reed's infamous stint at NYC's Bottom Line is taped, resulting in Take No Prisoners-- part raucous rock n roll show, part stand-up comedy routine.
Lou's collaboration with former Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine prompts yet another creative rebirth. On The Blue Mask, Lou's guitar work is a major force. With lyrics both disturbing (Waves of Fear)and contemplative (Our House), and the gritty twin guitar grind, The Blue Mask proves to be one of the decade's most powerful rock albums.
Reed, along with guitar sidekick Quine, bassist Fernando Saunders and drummer Fred Maher, returns to NYC's Bottom Line for a series of inspired performances. The video, A Night With Lou Reed captures one of these live appearances in all it's chaotic splendor. Reed and company also play to thousands of riotous fans at the Colesium in Rome, documented on the Live in Italy import CD. The same year, Reed's song "Little Sister," is included in the soundtrack to the feature film, Get Crazy. Reed also provides words and music for a major animated feature film, Rock n' Rule.
The Velvet Underground's spectre looms larger than ever before. The diverse sounds of popular new wave bands such as Jesus and Mary Chain, Japan, New Order, The Feelies-- not to mention countless others--all suggest a strong Velvets' influence. Previously unreleased Velvets material is featured on the albums VU, and Another View.
New York, Reed's 14th studio effort, is often considered to be his conceptual masterwork. It's also a testament to the primal power of a bare-bones production ethic combined with a simple guitar/bass/drums approach. As evidenced by "Dirty Blvd, " and "Romeo and Juliette" Lou's intelligent, sardonic street narratives and scathing social comments never miss a beat. Riding the bruising one-two punch of Reed and Mike Rathke's dueling guitars, New York tops college radio charts and eventually goes gold. Live, Lou performs the album in it's entirety. "Busload of Faith," a cut from the album, is featured in the movie True Believers, starring James Woods.
Reed collaborates with former Velvet John Cale on the beautifully spare and carefully arranged Songs for Drella. Lou eulogizes his friend and mentor Andy Warhol in a very personal and empathetic tribute. Cale adds some elegant keyboard and signature viola work. Songs for Drella is performed for sell-out audiences at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Later in the year, the impossible happened: the four original Velvets reunite onstage at Jouy en Josas, 20 miles outside of Paris, at an exhibition of Andy Warhol's paintings. Reed and John Cale play selections from Songs For Drella. Then, Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison join Reed and Cale onstage for a harrowing version of "Heroin," played to a stunned gathering of select attendees.
Hyperion publishes a collection of Reed's lyrics, entitled Between Thought and Expression. A 3-cd box set with the same title is released soon after--which is, for all intents and purposes, an extensive sampling of Reed's best solo work since 1972.
Lou records Magic and Loss, a thoughtful meditation on death, personal loss, and redemption. The album is dedicated to the late songwriting genius Doc Pomus. In May, Reed performs these songs at Radio City Music Hall. The stage show is structured somewhat like a theatrical production, presented in three parts. Part one consists of the entire Magic and Loss album; while selections from the Songs for Drella, and New York albums make up parts two and three respectively.
Reed and the original Velvets reunite again--this time for soldout shows across Europe. They also collaborate on a new song, "Coyote." The reunion bears the double live album Live MCMXCVII. Months later, however, this latest Velvets incarnation unfortunately dissolves before an American tour can be scheduled.
Set the Twilight Reeling, Lou's first solo effort in three years, is released to great acclaim. Reed and band launch extensive European and American tours, with Mike Rathke on guitar, Fernando Saunders on bass, and Tony "Thunder" Smith on drums. At NYC's Beacon Theater, Reed joins opening act Luna for an unforgettable rendition of "Ride Into the Sun." Also that same year, Polygram issues The Velvet Underground:Peel Slowly And See... a 5-cd compilation encompassing all four Velvets studio albums, plus a number of previously unreleased demos and outtakes.
Lou Reed, along with former Velvet bandmates John Cale, Maureen Tucker, and the late Sterling Morrison are inducted Rock n roll hall of fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Reed provides the words and music to Robert Wilson's futuristic stage play, "Timerocker."
PERFECT NIGHT, Lou Reed's debut release on Reprise Records, was released on April 21st, 1998. Recorded at the Meltdown Festival '97 in London on July 3rd at the Royal Festival Hall. Song list: I'll Be your Mirror, Perfect Day, The Kids, Vicious, Busload of Faith, Kicks, Talking Book, Into the Divine, Coney Island Baby, New Sensations, Why Do You Talk, Riptide, Original Wrapper, Sex With Your Parents and Dirty Blvd. Why Do you Talk, Talking Book and Into The Divine are from "Time Rocker. This is an acoustic electric performance. Lou plays an acoustic guitar but it is plugged into an amp using a "Feedbucker"TM, which gives it "the sound of diamonds" There are also liner notes which expands on this concept.
In addition to the release of Perfect Night, the American Masters special Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, will premiered in April on PBS.
Lou Reed enters the twenty-first century with his genius intact and his art in fact. At this point in time, he stands with a body of work which places him at a level of rock & roll artistry where few others dwell and most fear to tread. From his very first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, his influence has been profound, if not scary. And although that landmark album met with nominal commercial success, it has sold many musicians on the possibilities suddenly available to creative imaginations. Over the years, Lou Reed has been recognized as a primal and constant force in a field where "geniuses" come and go like so many fashion plates.
Reed's work transcends time, with its beauty shimmering beneath frightening truths cloaked in the gutter. His observations and insight ring so accurately that he is often mistaken as the subject of his own art. We believe him completely. His complex visions of a temporary world in which the stakes are always rising as the bottom line grows uglier and more demanding, are the gifts of a rock & roll alchemist. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Lou Reed's gold is a must.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist's works about madness and hope, desire and treachery, reflections and addiction, are peopled by crackheads and intellectuals, angels and whores, prisoners and enforcers, wild children and diminished wolverine parents, the lost and the found in the arms of a voracious hunger disguised as life. These individuals are also confused by their own duality: accounts of memories, nightmares, visions, shadows, cartoons and mysteries all entwined in Lou Reed's love for rock & roll and its unlimited potential for salvation.
Lou Reed's America exists in previously uncharted waters. Few have explored the heart, soul, brain, underbelly and dementia of this culture more persuasively or poetically. He presents jokes like assassinations, love letters like injections and rooms with a point of view, encompassing the bleakest dead ends and the highest skies. There are no victims, only survivors. For over 30 years Lou Reed has written the American history on record, where the personal and political combine to create myth. His own mythology continues to grow, like a great peacock, wings spread - an Icarus in search of the sun.
The ultimate New Yorker's Ecstasy is the latest leap for an artist whose talents continue to astonish with wit, daring and joy. Traveling across a musical landscape that moves from paranoia through various stages of discovery, doubt and reaffirmation, it attains its apex with the postmodern symphonic power of "Like A Possum." This song follows in the stunning style and energy of "Heroin," "Sister Ray," "Coney Island Baby," Street Hassle" and "Magic and Loss" - epic pieces articulating the convergence of pure poetry, twenty-first century blues and the drive of primitive rock & roll beats.
Ecstasy has songs of undiluted cynicism cutting with Lou Reed's legendary blade, while others suggest a valiant, yet weary, romantic still in search of true love or its mirrored image. His songs sound and feel like no one else's. Reed's guitar playing has become human in its vastness, every attack infinite in its precision and passion. Once again, he is out to save lives with music, and as always, Lou Reed's weapon is that, like it or not, he is one of the few rock & rollers with the artillery to succeed
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