There is a soundtrack to my life. Its always been there, playing in the background. Certain songs and certain musicians informing my actions consciously or unconsciously; creating memories, intertwining, becoming inseparable from that moment in time. A man who created a large chunk of that soundtrack is gone. Lou Reed died last Sunday.
I first heard Lou Reed on the radio, riding in the backseat of my mother’s emerald green Honda Civic. That familiar baseline from Walk on the Wildside sliding from the speakers. I didn’t know then what the song was about, what it meant, I just knew it was good. I knew I liked it.
I wouldn’t be until I was in high school that I really discovered him. I would hangout in a friend’s basement, it was dark and we sat on old, garage sale quality sofas and a beat up and torn armchair. It was where we smoked cigarettes and drank Budweiser beer from cans. It was where we talked about books and half-understood philosophy. And we listened to music. A lot of music. Seemingly endless rows of LPs stacked along each wall. One night we pulled out the Velvet Underground & Nico, the one with the banana on the front. It was weird and strange, but familiar in many ways. The melodies were right and the harmonies were catchy, but something was just a bit off, not quite right somehow. And the lyrics were different, forbidden. Like we were overhearing to a conversation we weren’t supposed to hear. I loved it. And I kept listening.
In New Zealand I had a copy of Transformer on cassette that I listened to on an old Walkman. When I hear it I think of rolling, green hills and hitchhiking the South Island. I think of wondering into small towns alone with only music as company. And I remember the kindness of strangers with lovely accents.
During a particularly bad breakup there was Berlin. The music was filled with sadness and depression, it was haunted. This matched my mood at the time perfectly.
I listened to Cony Island Baby on a loop in a Clevey Citation driving alone cross country. I makes me think of roadside dinners in the Midwest, sleeping in the backseat in the parking lots of rest stops and being happy.
In college there was New York. It is odd that an album called New York reminds me of San Francisco. I think of fog and friends and Natural Lite beer. I think of conversations and arguments on politics and human rights. I think of all the plans I made to change the world. Plans that never came to be.
And so many more. Lou reed is gone and there will never be anyone like him again. Many will try but no one will ever recreate those monotone confessions sung to a strumming guitar slightly out of tune. Music that was just a bit off, but always perfect.