Lou Reed: A True Rock’N’Roll Original

Lou Reed is one of those musical happenings that seem to come out of nowhere, completely original, who have things to say that force people to listen.

Published on

Lou Reed
Photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

“I believe in the power of punk.” So said Lou Reed in September 2013, just a month before he passed away. It is the kind of thing that Reed said throughout his long career, one in which he played a defining role, not just for punk, but for rock music as a whole. Even after his passing, Lou’s music continues to fascinate and captivate audiences around the world.

Reed’s version of punk began with the Velvet Underground, the band he formed with John Cale, who said of Reed’s death. “The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet … I’ve lost my school-yard buddy.” While the Velvet Underground achieved only modest success in the 1960s, when their albums were released, it was as a band that influenced so much that followed. As Brian Eno said of their 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, “Everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Others have called it “the single most influential album in rock history.”

Listen to the best of Lou Reed on Apple Music and Spotify.

Idiosyncratic solo career

With the demise of the band, Lou Reed began his idiosyncratic solo career in the early 1970s, befriending David Bowie, and releasing albums including Transformer and Berlin. Reed’s success, and his importance, lay not in sales but in the influence he had and the thought processes he brought to bear on all things rock. His was not a cozy sycophantic relationship with the press, his was confrontation on an industrial scale. Rarely, if ever, did a journalist come away from interviewing Reed unscathed, but just about every journalist also came away understanding just what makes rock music an important art form; arguably the most important art form in the world.

Lou Reed - I Love You, Suzanne (Official Video)

Click to load video

A principal architect of punk

The artistic melding of classically trained John Cale with Reed, who famously said that “if you played three chords, you are playing jazz,” gives us insight as to what helped to make him one of the principal architects of punk. Without his complex character, and his often complex music, punk would not have happened. His understanding of everything from doo-wop to thrash metal, even before it was called such a thing, was an essential energy that made punk what it was and allowed music to lurch once again from the safety of the charts to the unknown, the new and the challenging.

While some of Reed’s songs seemed light, whimsical almost, they almost never were. His was a walk on the dark side, with subjects that had hitherto been shunned by just about everyone. While Reed did not invent the use of imagery in rock music he took it to a whole new level.

His influence on Bowie and Roxy Music helped to push music into art, to take the old rules and throw them away to create what we have come to call glam rock, again, without Reed it may never have happened.

But the man who always believed in the power of punk left another legacy, the post-punk movement, the dark side of goth; helping, although not directly, New York become the hippest place on the planet for a while in the late 1970s.

The Velvet Underground - I’m Waiting For The Man (Live At The Matrix)

Click to load video

While Reed lived comfortably in New York, he practiced Taiji with Bowie’s long-time producer Tony Visconti for many years. “We heard the news in our Taiji class this afternoon. We are devastated,” said Visconti. Reed never sold albums in the quantities of many of his contemporaries, somehow that never seemed to matter. Maybe he even thought it a good thing.

Lou Reed is one of those musical happenings that seem to come out of nowhere, completely original, like Hendrix, who have things to say that force people to listen. But most of all they make people change, to do things differently. We’ve seen few people that even vaguely come close to Lou Reed in the last thirty years. Arguably we’ll see fewer still in the next few decades. We have become prisoners to conformity, we are safer than safe, no hint of any incorrectness, political or otherwise.

Originally released as a CD box set, The Velvet Underground’s The Complete Matrix Tapes made its vinyl debut as a limited edition, eight-LP, 43-track box set that can be bought here.



  1. John Flynn

    October 30, 2014 at 12:10 am

    White Light/White Heat

  2. feralcat

    October 30, 2014 at 12:32 am

    some kinda love

  3. shihai lu

    October 30, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Sister Ray. My fav all the time.

  4. Richard Craik

    October 30, 2014 at 2:25 am

    Candy Says

  5. Chris Howe

    October 30, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Favorite V.U. song by Lou-that’s easy the iconic 60’s song-“Rock and Roll”

  6. Martin Olsen

    October 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    My favorit Song by VU is definitly: Heroin

  7. Chuckyarla

    October 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    “I’m waiting for my man, twenty-six dollars in my hand, Up to Lexington 125 Feel sick and dirty,More dead than alive, I’m waiting or my man

  8. Sabine

    October 30, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    candy says

    Sunday Morning

    Pale Blue eyes

  9. tommy

    October 30, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Last Great American Whale!

  10. Timothy

    September 15, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Live version of ‘What Goes On’ from the 1969 Live album. Those guitars are for KEEPS!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Johnny Cash - Songwriter LP
Johnny Cash
Songwriter (Limited-Edition Smoke Color LP)
Johnny Cash - Songwriter CD
Johnny Cash
Songwriter CD
Johnny Cash - Songwriter LP
Johnny Cash
Songwriter LP
Paul McCartney & Wings - One Hand Clapping 2LP+7
Paul McCartney & Wings
One Hand Clapping (Limited 2LP + 7″)
Paul McCartney & Wings - One Hand Clapping 2CD
Paul McCartney & Wings
One Hand Clapping 2CD
Paul McCartney & Wings - One Hand Clapping 2LP
Paul McCartney & Wings
One Hand Clapping 2LP
uDiscover Music - Back To Top
uDiscover Music - Back To Top