Demo Remembers Lou Reed

A selection of Demo contributors share their favourite song or memory of the beloved musician, who passed away at age 71 early this week.

“Street Hassle” (from Street Hassle)

1978’s Street Hassle is arguably Lou Reed’s response to the punk rock movement, which had elevated him to an elder statesman role. The albums gritty street vision found favour amongst the new breed of bohemian lowlifes. The visceral negativity of tracks like “Leave Me Alone” and the gleefully trenchant “Dirt” matched provocative lyrics with noisily amateurish guitar stomp, a wonderful venting of the spleen.

But the albums tender heart, the title track is perhaps one of Reed’s greatest works. An 11-minute orchestral workout that evolves and contorts over its length to incorporate operatic a capella, droning organs and guitars, and a surprise verse by an ascendant Bruce Springsteen, “Street Hassle” is at once arresting and spell binding.  A portrait of loss and despair as seen through the lives of a prostitute, a drug dealer, and a lovelorn homosexual, “Street Hassle” is uncompromising in all its Last Exit to Brooklyn glory. In a quintessential Lou Reed act of fan baiting self-sabotage, “Street Hassle” was followed in the tracklisting by “I Wanna Be Black”, 3 minutes of uncomfortable bar jazz and questionable satire. Still, Street Hassle’s bombastic honesty makes it a clear highlight of an illustrious career.

-Adam Bernhardt

Inspiring Words to Will Sheff

I owe Lou Reed for a lot, but my biggest debt was only revealed when Will Sheff, frontman of Okkervil River, wrote about it this past week. In 2006, Okkervil had been struggling to break through and Sheff was under heavy criticism over his singing. He was considering quitting music until he met Reed, his idol. Reed changed the singer’s life by telling him he had a great rock voice and that he could sing anything. Those simple words drove Sheff to keep going and make The Stage Names, an album that completely changed my life. I’ll miss you, Lou.

-Stuart Oakes

White Light/White Heat

 

Turn the lights off. Now lie on the floor. Ready? Now put on the album White Light/White Heat and listen to it all the way through.

 

That’s when I fell in love with Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Most of the songs on it were recorded in one take. It’s a moment in Lou Reed’s career that captures what making music is all about: jamming, making beautiful noises, and having a good time. I think part of what makes him so enjoyable, for me and many others, is that he really had fun making music. Thanks for everything, Lou.

-Emma Doerksen

Sister Ray”

My favourite Lou Reed song has always been the seventeen screaming minutes of Sister Ray. During a time where even the edgiest of artists were still singing about lovely meter maids and having sympathy for misunderstood biblical characters, Lou was yelling about how he doesn’t have the time because “she’s too busy sucking on my ding-dong”. While everyone else was trying to make their music pretty and get the timing just so, Lou and the other Velvets were cranking every knob, looking their producers in the face and saying “proper timing is for squares.” If you haven’t yet, do take the time to learn where Iggy Pop learned how to make things loud.

-Erik Masson

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