Today’s entry was going to be about Israel. About the not so holy land. I’d already written a lot of it. But due to extenuating circumstances, grueling and devastating circumstances for some us, that one is going to be postponed at least until tomorrow. For we’ve just found out that Lou Reed, yes that Lou Reed… has passed away into the great unknown. This one’s for him. For those that know me, or know of me, it’s a given fact that Lou was my biggest musical influence. Princess Little Tree and I have spent countless hours laughing at the fact that every time I release a new album and do the usual hundred or so interviews with the press to promote it — which now usually come in the form of emails that I dictate and she types out and sends back, there is ALWAYS that SAME question: “Who are your five or six biggest influences on your own music?” Without fail that question shows up. And time and time again I answer that question the same. Bowie, Lou Reed, Donovan, Marc Bolan, John Lennon, Paul, George, Bruce, Joni…. Etc.
I never care that most people don’t know who some of those people are. It just is what it is. You can’t listen to me without hearing Lou and Marc and David if you know their music. And I have no idea why that is except to think that that shit just washes over you and then seeps under your skin, gets inside of you and stays there forever… Becomes a part of you.
So it’s finally happened. We’ve lost one of the BIG ones. One of the REAL greats. No we’re not talking about Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston et al. Sure those artists have a place, somewhere, in the bastions of music I suppose… just not rock and roll. And certainly nothing to do with me. We’re talking about Lou. Yes, THAT Lou. My Lou. Our Lou. Lou Reed. The guy that when you tell people he’s your biggest influence they ask “Who’s that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him…” which leads slowly down the path to help explain why artists like me, and Lou, have never reached the highest heights obtainable for musical artists. Because most people have never heard of him. Or me. You always have to follow his name with “You know, that song “Hey babe/take a walk on the wild side…?” And then they’re like “Oh yeah I’ve heard that song. Was he a one hit wonder or something?” And of course that’s a very loaded and telling question that speaks tons about contemporary music, and art in general, in the modern world; for what IS a one hit wonder? Most of them are some of the greatest artists to ever burst out of the human genetic tree. But they just aren’t pedestrian enough to achieve massive fame with the unwashed working class masses. Which in a way is grace and glory and in another way is a deeply sad tragedy.
I’ve told this story before. But if there’s one place where it belongs, in perpetuity, it’s here in the Transcendence Diaries. For without Lou Reed there would be no Ed Hale and thus no Fishy, no Transcendence and no Transcendence Diaries. By all accounts I lucked out. I got signed and had my first album come out when I was 17 years old. What is now commonly called The Eddie Album. Yeah me and Beav were psyched. We’d waited for that moment since we were little kids. We knew I’d get signed. Knew I’d release albums all my life. Knew I’d be a rock star. It was a given. But then something that I’ll never forget happened. Something that I for whatever reason believe changed the trajectory of my life and career forever.
Beav and I were sitting on the floor of my bedroom. We were smoking out, pretty high. I was home on break from college. We were talking about big dreams. Our local paper in Pine Ridge had just run a big cover story on me. We were so freaking happy. All our friends were there. It was a scene. I was talking about how big I was gonna be. Bigger than Elvis. Like all kids do I suppose… And then Beav, as he always does, just out of the blue, after minutes of not saying anything — so when he does speak, everyone goes quiet and listens — he says “Nah dude…” he glances down and takes a drag from his cigarette “you’re not gonna be big like that bro…”
“What are you talking about man? Of course I am!” I protest.
“Nah man. What would be cooler is if you were more like Lou man. More underground. More cool. More intelligent. You don’t want to be a sell-out bro. And let’s face it. You’re not really like the kind of artists that make it big bro. You’re short and ugly as hell and you’ve got that giant schnoz of yours…” Everyone starts laughing. But I continue to protest… though I knew he was just ribbing me. I also knew there was some truth to what he was saying.
“What about Prince? HE’S a real artist and HE’S super big!” I exclaim.
“Yeah man but dude… You’re not like Prince. I mean… You don’t dance and sing like that. You’re more like Lou than anyone… Or Marc Bolan…. You’re underground. You’re an acquired taste dude.”
I never thought that Beav even thought about me or my music… let alone had such insight to what I really sounded like or would come off like to millions of people… Especially not when we were still kids… But I thought about it… I went silent… I just sat there thinking about it. I mean, hell, he was right…. Most of the artists that I grew up loving were already dead or dying or at least 30 years in the past and they were all pretty underground… I never listened to contemporary music when it was contemporary. I shunned it for older cooler stuff. For the exact opposite of superstars. Marc Bolan (T. Rex for those of you who don’t know who Marc is. “Bang a Gong” for those of you who don’t know who T. Rex is…), Donovan, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop….
Sure I was a Beatles fan and as a kid with The Toad and Stu Guru we would daydream about being as big as the Beatles like all young up and coming musicians do. But my tastes ran way deeper and more eclectic than just the Beatles. The Beatles days were when I was a kid. As I grew older I began looking for things that were much more intelligent and eccentric than anything the Beatles ever offered. And as an artist on my own, I quickly began to diverge off the commercial path before my second album even came out. Which of course led to it never coming out because it wasn’t “commercial enough”.
But this isn’t about me. This is about Lou. Who died today. Yesterday Beav texted me a batch of Lou lyrics. Just yesterday. Little Beav texted me almost ALL the lyrics to Lou’s song “Trade In” from his Twilight Reeling album. See. That’s what most people aren’t going to understand. That’s why I’ll avoid social media like the plague for the next few days. Because now that Lou is dead all the pretenders will come out talking about how great they thought Lou Reed was, but they’ll be full of shit. They might know a song or two but they didn’t love the guy. They usually made fun of him. “Oh that guy who always talks instead of sings his songs…” You know who the Lou Reed fans are. Beav just texted me twenty freaking lines of Lou Reed lyrics because he LOVED Lou. For real loved him. As we all did and do who really knew him and loved him. We didn’t care that he lost his singing voice thirty years ago. We still went and saw him live because we wanted to be in his presence and we wanted to support him. Let the pretenders be damned. In fact, standby; I’m going to post something on social media now to all the wannabes who might dare take advantage of Lou’s death for their own selfish glory. I’ll be right back.
Okay I’m back. Had to do that. Social media is awash with these catfishing self-serving whores who will take advantage of any event to get some attention for themselves. One of the things I loath about it. Though for the most part, I am one of the big fans of social media obviously. On certain days though…. Today, wow. The more it hits me the sadder I get. I am starting to feel that deep sadness, the kind that is there when you are crying uncontrollably. It still hasn’t completely hit me yet. I just cannot get it through my head…. that Lou is really gone. Yes, I was lucky enough to meet Lou a few times. I can’t claim that we were friends. Not many can. Tony can. He actually had ben doing tai chi with Lou a lot over the last few years. So for him and for David (Bowie) I am truly truly sorry. I know they must really be feeling it, maybe even more than I; because they were close to Lou as a person. I was more just close to Lou as an artist. Is there a difference in our grief? in the feeling of loss we feel? How can it be quantified? Not sure it can be.
Today started out like any other. Just another Sunday. Wake up late but just in time to rush to church with Princess Little Tree. Making notes the whole time about this and that, different ideas that would eventually become books or screenplays or blog posts or songs. Then off to Victor’s the closest cool coffee shop in town for a cappuccino and some bakery items. Then home for all the Sunday news shows…. And then BAM! A friend posts something to facebook about Velvet Underground. I see it as a strange. SHE would normally NEVER post anything to social about Lou Reed. That’s odd. Let me check it out… Why would she…? And then I see it. Tony posts something confirming that it’s really true. Lou really passed. Fuck. Wow. Could it really be true? We just had a scare like this with Lou a few months ago. His liver was failing. So we knew this was coming. But man…. Couldn’t we get one more live show in? I really wanted Princess Little Tree to see him live. Just to feel that energy of all that love in the room…. But that’s not going to happen now. Ever. She’ll never get to experience that. And neither will I ever again.
But that’s okay as sad as it is. A few years ago as you know, I had the chance to experience Lou up-close and in person at Carnegie Hall. Along with a handful of other legends. At one of the Tibet House Benefit Concerts. Laurie was there too. (Laurie Anderson, Lou’s genius wife who on her won is one of the most innovative and influential artists of all time). So too was Philip. (Glass). It was an incredible show. When Lou came on you would have thought that Jesus himself had resurrected, again, and walked onto the stage. This was Lou’s home turf after all, New York City, a place that made him famous and that made even more famous just by being him. All you could hear were people screaming “LLLLOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!” It was such an incredible energy. I felt very happy for Lou in that moment. He hadn’t had a great ten years last. Yes he was being lauded by many notables for being the visionary that he was. Wim Wenders and Bono and Julian Schnauble and David Bowie had all done plenty to alert the world to his genius as he got older. But commercially his ship had sailed decades before. And his original albums were not just failing to get anywhere commercially; they were failing to even connect with his small fanbase. The last album that he recorded with Metallica was purely dreadful. To this day I have no idea why he or they did it. It was just a mismatch. I get that they loved him and wanted to work with him. But man when something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.
David said once, “The thing about working with Lou is that he will ALWAYS find a way to deliberately fuck things up when you’re in the recording studio. That’s the thing. He doesn’t WANT it to be perfect and polished and commercial sounding.” That quote stayed with me for a long time. Never left actually. I have never forgotten it. For better or worse, from the moment I heard it, I kind of adopted it as an ethos for my own art. I understood from that moment on what it meant to record a Lou Reed Album and why his music always sounded the way it did. He was doing it on purpose. So yes, I can admit it here, I adopted that same principle. That’s how big of an influence Lou was on us, on me I guess I mean to say. There is this strong desire to not suffer this grief alone. I want to call someone. Someone who gets it. But only Beav really gets it out of all the people I know. Most people just don’t love Lou the way I did. Tony is feeling it.
I just texted Tony. Just to connect with someone else who can really understand and who is feeling the same kind of grief. It would be like if David passed, God forbid; I shouldn’t even say such a thing. But it’s that kind of pain and shock. We know it’s inevitable. And God knows that for Lou to last till 72 with the insane lifestyle he had then man was he lucky… but it still comes as a shock. Just one of those things we KNOW is going to happen but we just pretend is NEVER going to happen. That’s being human isn’t it? That knowing combined with that uncanny ability to live in denial as only we can out of all the other animals on the earth…
One of the first things that Princee asked me is “Why is he considered so great? Why is he so loved?” So I went on YouTube and began calling up songs of his to play for her and post to social media. So others could become aware of his great works. At the bottom of this post I will paste the link to a PlayList I created of some of Lou’s greatest musical achievements. It’s just really a start. There is SO MUCH more to his achievements than what is on here. It’s a start. It’ll turn you on to a very small sampling of some of his greatest moments and that’s all. There is plenty more beyond it if you dig what you hear. Lou was one of those very rare artists who continually changed and evolved artistically. He never settled down. He never repeated himself. This is why is so beloved by those that know. For those that do NOT like the usual dreck that dominates the airwaves of today, call them the literati or the cognizati or whatever, they all have a small handful of things in common; a sincere love and respect of Lou Reed being one of them. He was a master wordsmith. Unlike Sir Paul, who can sure write a pretty tune, or even a badass one (“Helter Skelter”), but who often disappointed lyrically, Lou NEVER disappointed lyrically. He was the exact opposite. Like Paul Simon or Elvis Costello, Lou never wasted one word. He never took the easy way out lyrically. He never rhymed just because he needed to. IF he had to, he would forsake the rhyme for the meaning. How FEW artists dare do that in contemporary music?
Listen to the song “Street Hassle” or “Kicks” if you want a taste of what a genius writes like within the confines of modern music. Of course the music isn’t the least bit commercially accessable. But that isn’t why Lou made music. And perhaps that’s why we loved and admired him so. Because he just didn’t care as much about that kind of thing compared with being a great writer. His heroes were real poets, cats like Delmore Shwartz, so he didn’t compare himself to other singer/songwriters… He compared himself to real poets. That had a huge impact on me.
The first time I met Lou was twenty years ago. I was a freshman in college. My own first album had just come out. I had written my final term paper on Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, as crazy as that sounds now. And I was playing on a side stage at an Amnesty International event in Atlanta, GA. So was Lou and a still young U2. I got to meet all these amazing people. I went up to Lou and told him how much I loved him and that I had just written my final on him. His response was something like “That’s nice kid….” and that was it. I didn’t expect any more, but it still stung a bit. But why would he care? Would I now? Do I? In all honesty, it’s not that I don’t, when I am told similar things… It’s more like I just don’t have the time for it… That’s really what it comes down to. It took me years of walking in his shoes a bit to get that. For the little me who got hurt as a young fan to integrate with the larger me that began to do the same things to people as I became older and busier.
A few years later I was on the phone with Laurie’s (Anderson) personal assistant. He told me he was leaving the position. I asked why. Laurie is the BOMB. She’s a freaking genius. “I just can’t take having to deal with Lou” he said. “Is he that bad?” I asked. After all, we were talking because I wanted to cruise over and hang with Laurie but I really wanted to hang with Lou. “How often do you really have to talk to him anyway?” “Well now that he and Laurie are a thing…. even if Lou answers the phone, he’s just so fucking rude and callous sometimes. I can’t deal with it.” This really helped me understand. Lou was still coming out of something. I mean, all that pain that created all that incredible music… Music that could only be created from that kind of pain…. He wasn’t just exploiting it. He was living it. He was it. It was HIS life. And it showed. It hit me… Wow, the reason he is able to touch upon these things… is because he feels this pain, he lives it. And unfortunately for those who have to deal with him on a day to day basis, it can be hard to handle at times.
A few years before, I was at Rudy’s Music, the famed guitar dealer in New York City, this is back in the Acoustic In New York days, circa ’95. Fame was about to come and go yet again for me. Or at least any semblance of importance or relevance in the music business. I was sleeping on couches and knocking on doors. Again. Trying to get this new album out that I had recorded for SONY that now was never going to be released because “the songs were too long”. (This was just one of the many aspects of Lou’s influence…. the ironic balance between the quest we had to achieve at least enough appeal to the suits to be able to release our music but our totally fuck it all attitude to the rules and constraints of the business of music to the point where it became harmful to our ability to achieve any kind of real commercial success…. I mean, without Lou…. I don’t know if I would have ever known to reach that far… In terms of artistic reach…. song length…. the need to tell the whole story regardless of how long the song ended up being…. a lot of that came from Lou….)
Around this time I wanted to buy an original Lou Reed black Telecaster. As close to original and as close to Lou’s as I could. So I went to the source. I knew Lou has all his guitars made and repaired by Rudy. Rudy just flat out told me that yes Lou was a special customer but he was a total dick to work for. That again upset and disappointed me. Beav kept telling me to “go bang on Lou’s door and reintroduce yourself and make friends with him man!” But I kept hearing these things that didn’t bode very well for something like that. As much as I would have loved it. Like Bob did with Woody or Lou himself did with Delmore…. I always pictured myself doing it with Lou. But reality told me that it wasn’t going to play out like that. Speaking with Laurie’s assistant, who I’m deliberately not naming, was the closest I came and I really wanted it to happen. But he assured me that if he were to even get up the desire to do me the favor that it would not turn out the way I imagined. Laurie, sure, no problem. But Lou, not a chance. So it never happened back then. Then I got older and my own star started to reignite.
Tony shares things with me. Evidently Lou became much more kind and docile over the last few years. Which makes me happy. He got clean. He went on antidepressants. He had to. He went all natural, which is always good. Started doing tai chi. Tony said he even became nearly personable. But I just didn’t have the chance now at this stage in my own career; I had become so busy… it’s strange how that happens. I could have made the effort to take just half a day to make the pilgrimage, to share with the man how much he meant to me… But I could never make the time. So there’s that too. Just regret. I could have taken the time. I always just figured there would be time. And maybe that’s one of the lessons to be plucked from this great loss. The intense need there is for us to take the time to do things that are most meaningful and important to us. So we DON’T spend the rest of our lives in regret.
For those that know me, I guess it’s enough just to acknowledge what has happened today and that will provide plenty of context as to why I might be MIA for a while, as well as to help explain what and how I’m feeling… If I come off angry or hostile or overtly down…. I really can’t find the words. I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. And more so than most family members I have truth be told. More so certainly than any kind of sadness I might feel if and when my own father passes. But alas you all will understand the other side of that as well. It hurts. I’ve not yet reached the point of tears.
Because I just feel so goddamned angry still. Mad that it’s happened now. Mad that I’m in bumfuck nowhere instead of New York where I should be at a time like this. Nowhere Lou or Laurie or Tony or any Lou fans, nowhere near any vigils that are going to be taking place tonight all over Manhattan. Just mad that it happened. Mad that I never took the time to go pay my respects when I could. Mad that he’s gone forever now and there’s no chance for that “one more great album from Lou”…. The anger is masking my sadness. But I can feel the pain swelling up inside my chest past my throat and into my face. Pain. Deep painful hurtful pain. Lou is one of the last of them. Besides the obvious ones and I’m not going to name them. But God he was still so young.
It wouldn’t be fair to write about Lou without saying a big FUCK YOU to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting Lou as solo artist until AFTER he’s dead. For surely NOW they will rush to induct him next year. Even though every fucking year his name comes up and they’ve been passing it up; assuming they had plenty of years to do it still and besides “we’ve already inducted him once with the Velvets….” But no that wasn’t good enough. And now like with so many you’re going to end up doing it posthumously. And that sucks. For Lou, who really wanted it, and for all of us who believed that he should have gotten in there long before half the people who are in there now. I mean, this is the guy who gave us “Walk on wild side,” “Sweet Jane” “Satellite of love” “Coney Island Baby” “Street Hassle” “New York” “Blue Mask” “Berlin” on and on and on. On one else gave us what Lou gave us.
He deserved more recognition in his lifetime than he received. I am sure there is going to be plenty now that he has passed. And that’s one of the many aspects of who and how we are that enrages me to no end. But that’s politics. Today should be a day for remembering WHY we love Lou so much. All those songs man. All that brilliant poetry that spoke in a voice that only he could. That white soul groove that he laid down in song. That razor guitar sound and that wall of noise with that mid-toned nasally New York accented voice that hauntingly floated just above all of it speaking truths about the world and the human condition more honestly and more poetically than almost anyone else before or since. “Hey hey Lou Reed/ there aint no way you’ll ever be a human being….” “And some people they’ve got no choice/ and they can never find a voice/ to talk with or even call their own/ so the first thing that they see/ that gives them the right to be/ why they follow it/ and you know man/ it’s called bad luck”
Lou Reed I’m going to miss you. I loved you dearly. Without you there could never be a me. I’ve never been ashamed or too proud or selfish to admit that. Wish I would have told you that in person when I was older, more as peers and not from such a distance as is created by age. But I know you knew how influential you were to guys like me. To so many. I hope you passed on easily and confidentially knowing how important you were and always will be. And how truly loved admired and respected. Here’s to you Coney Island Baby New York City Man.
Here’s a playlist of just a few of Lou’s greatest contributions to modern music: