Category: Columns

The Lou Reed Obituary For Normal People

Lou Reed didn't care what you thought.

While Lou Reed was a hero to many many people — me included — there were millions upon millions who neither knew or cared who he was and what he did. This obituary is for them …

Musician Lou Reed, who for decades was an icon for freaks, weirdos and deviants from ages 8 to 80, died on Sunday.

Mr. Reed first became known to the public in 1967 as the lead singer and songwriter for The Velvet Underground, a New York City band. Mr Reed and his band mates — John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker — became part of the “Factory” scene of Andy Warhol, an artist for whom art wasn’t really about creating new things, but making copies of old things with different colors.

The first Velvet Underground album — The Velvet Underground & Nico — sounded like it was produced by an artist, not a record producer, and contained unlistenable songs about unfathomable subject matter, glorifying drugs, street life and deviant sex. This was taken to an extreme on the second Velvet Underground album, White Light White Heat, which climaxed with a 17-minute jumble of noise where Mr. Reed chanted words about a drug-fueled transsexual orgy.

Needless to say, neither of these albums made much of an impression on the record-buying public at large, selling only a few thousand copies each. There is a quote — probably apocryphal — that while these albums only sold poorly, all of the people who bought them formed their own bands, and subsequently released their own poor selling albums. This was the beginning of the “Alternative Music” scene.

After a couple more records, Mr. Reed broke up the Velvet Underground and embarked upon a solo career. After befriending David Bowie, and inserting himself into the “Glam Rock” scene, he had his only top 20 single, the vaguely racist transgressive novelty song, “Walk on the Wild Side.”

After this unexpected success, Mr. Reed then spent the rest of the 1970s alienating his audience and picking fights with the burgeoning rock press, culminating in the release of a two-disc set of abrasive noise with the caveat emptor title of Metal Machine Music.

In the 1980s, punk rockers and college students, desperately looking for something to help them rebel against the prosperity of the Reagan era, glommed on the music of The Velvet Underground as forerunners of their “Alternative Music” scene, which was then gaining steam.

Mr. Reed reinvented himself as a godfather of that scene, and experienced a career renaissance resulting in his starring in a commercial for Honda Scooters, which referenced his novelty song from the prior decade and ended with Mr. Reed looking at the camera and declaring “don’t settle for walking.”

At the time, there was still a concept known as “selling out,” and it was hotly debated whether or not Reed’s trademark patina of ironic detachment mitigated the fact that he was still being paid money to hawk a product for a major corporation. The debate fizzled out when it was realized that the general public still had no idea who he was.

In the 1990s, the “Alternative Music” scene briefly ruled the music world, as Velvet Underground-influenced alternative rock bands like Creed, Third Eye Blind and Bush topped the charts. Mr. Reed responded by reuniting the Velvet Underground for one tour, but declining to record any new music with the band. He then spent the rest of his career periodically releasing a series of concept albums on subjects such as death, Edgar Allen Poe, and his favorite subject, himself.

Lou Reed was 71. He is survived by his partner, Laurie Anderson, who is that performance artist you might have heard of.

Medialoper Bebop Episode 34: Welcomed to the Jungle

Jim is finally back from Maui, and so we’re finally back with a podcast!

This week, we wonder if Axl Rose is right to refuse entry into a Hall of Fame that would induct someone like Axl Rose. (07:51 – 19:13)

Then, in 2012, should anybody be watching shows like Mad Men or Breaking Bad in anything but HD? Of course not, so we discuss the fact that DirecTV customers still have to suffer with AMC in Standard Definition. This also leads into a discussion on David Simon’s comments about people not watching The Wire properly. (19:14 – 29:55)

Then, we follow up on the DOJ’s eBooks anti-trust lawsuit. (29:56 – 37:46)

Finally, what’s in Jim’s mix: the latest records from Wussy, The Men, Nada Surf and Imperial Teen. (37:47 – 43:16)

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Medialoper Bebop Episode 33: Drug Test

This week, Tim, Kirk & Jim start off by banging their heads against the LA Times paywall. (4:40 – 10:35)

Next up, what’s worse than taking a drug test to get a job? Having a prospective employer login to Facebook as you. (10:36 – 18:30)

Then, we all plan to go see The Hunger Games, after convincing Kirk that it’s a sequel to Moneyball. (18:31 – 22:21)

Also, we look at how the new iPad’s Retina Display doesn’t play nicely with app developers who took shortcuts or tried to control the experience too tightly. (22:22 – 32:20)

All that, and what’s in Tim’s mix: Bruce Springsteen, Esvbjorn Svensson Trio and The Shins. (32:21 – 42:59)

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Medialoper Bebop Episode 32: Rehab Rehab

And we’re back! Kirk, Tim & Jim start off by discussing Daylight Saving Time and the logistics of attending SxSW in a wheelchair, and wonder Kirk didn’t do just that following his knee surgery. (4:28 – 10:00)

You wonder why e-book prices have gone up in the past couple of years? And they’re all pretty much the same wherever you happen to shop? It’s because of a thing called “agency pricing,” and the U.S. Department of Justice are considering suing Apple and the major book-publishers over colluding to fix prices. (10:01 – 26:33)

Then: we discuss artists asking Rush Limbaugh not use their songs on his show. (26:34 – 33:40)

Finally, it’s Kirk’s turn for In The Mix. This week, it’s Ben Kweller, Chuck Prophet and The Died Pretty. (33:41 – 39:52)

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Medialoper Bebop Episode 31: Worst. Episode. Ever.

Jim, Kirk and Tim start this week by taking a look at the little-known cult show called The Simpsons, which celebrated its 500th episode this week. (08:30 – 25:53)

After that, we look at a technology that was all but left for dead but is making a comeback: over-the-air TV antennas. (26:04 – 32:53)

Finally, it’s the latest inductee into the Medialoper Bebop Great Albums Hall of Fame: The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy (32:54 – 44:53)

All that, and in honor of Kirk’s upcoming ACL surgery and Jean becoming a U.S. citizen, the Pledge of Allegiance!

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