Lou Reed

March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013

So Lou

We were having breakfast in this hotel. His digital Leica was on the table and the conversation was photography, something that was more than a pastime for him. The night before, Patti and I had played a show, a double bill with Lou and his band, in what seemed like a place for playing soccer. The promoters had oversold the thing and a classic and beautiful Italian chaos preceded the show. Patti and Lou did an interview earlier that day, benevolently monkey-wrenching the journalists' attempts to make connections that didn't exist and fit them into the neat little boxes of their questions. Instead, Lou spoke about his process: how he would set out to write a book, a mystery or something, and end up with a song. Later, at the performance, I wanted to be good and do what I should; but it ended up being a disaster for me, a humiliating struggle with sound and gear. I returned to our trailer dressing room staring at my feet and feeling like a failure. Everybody wanted to hear Patti and Lou play, but I was so bummed I had performed poorly, I wanted to go back to the hotel. So we left, but not before we clocked the amp Lou was playing; he was way into gear and his gear sounded so sonic, so good, so fierce-- so Lou.

Another time, he was bumming smokes off me outside a restaurant in Sardinia. I asked him about one of my favorite songs, "Ocean." He took a drag and looked through the archives in his mind; "oh, that gothic thing…" he said, exhaling a cloud of smoke, and went inside. The next morning I watched him do Tai Chi on the hotel lawn. He was wearing shorts and black socks.

We can probably all remember the first time we heard VU, or heard Transformer, or Berlin, or the Reed/Cale re-union of Songs for Drella; whatever it was we heard that first time, it said to us, "C'mon, I know this place where nobody goes, where the people, before they got there, were just like you are now."

Back at the breakfast table, I am lamenting the night before to Lou. I feel embarrassed and want him to know. He looks at me, says a few things about gear, and then leaves me with this gem, "Oliver, you got to protect yourself! No one else will."

"I'm gonna fly from side to side.
See the bells, up in the sky,
Somebody's cut the string in two.
Let it be good, and do what you should,
you know it'll work alright.
Let it be good, do what you should,
you know it'll be alright."

—Oliver Ray