This time last year, I reviewed Kate Bush’s book of selected lyrics, a slender volume. By contrast, this book of Lou Reed’s work is a real doorstop of well over six hundred pages, housed in a suitably sombre glossy black cover. This title has been put of print for a number of years, and this new edition has been updated to include the controversial Lulu album he made in 2011 with Metallica. Starting with the first Velvet Underground album, the book follows chronologically through Reed’s lengthy career from proto punk to glam rocker to elder statesman, and although there’s no commentary on the lyrics themselves, the book does include new introductory pieces by his widow, Laurie Anderson, James Atlas and Martin Scorsese. Many lyrics are morally ambiguous, both profound and profane (Street Hassle, songs from the Berlin and New York albums for example), while some are much more throwaway efforts, and others are just plain weird., but most have their own unique qualities in one way or another. There’s a lot of songs here that I wasn’t particularly familiar with that are well worth a look (and a listen), and it’s an interesting exercise to follow the changes in style over his long career arc – indeed so great are the contrasts it’s hard at times to believe these songs were all written by the same person, as though there were a myriad Lou Reed’s, different but ultimately the same. Of course, there’s a big difference between lyrics and poetry, and without the musical accompaniment and Reed’s trademark drawled delivery there’s somehow something lacking, as though the words printed on the page don’t quite paint the full picture or tell the whole story. Nevertheless, this is an interesting volume to dip in and out of, at times graphic, at times tender and intimate, and the introductory pieces, especially Scorsese’s, are well worth a read.
Length of Read:Long
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Reed, Velvets, Warhol, New York.
One thing you’ve learned
Lou Reed was an artist whose work became inextricably associated with the life of a single city, New York, and its inhabitants.