Certain Songs #983: Lou Reed – “Strawman (Live 1989)”

Album: Live in Toronto, 1989
Year: 1989

The first time I saw in Lou Reed in concert was on the New York tour.

It was April, 1989 at the now-gone Universal Ampitheater in Los Angeles, and not only did The Feelies open up, Lou joined them when they played “What Goes On” as their encore. Oh, and I pissed next to Richard Lewis, who of course was a Lou Reed fan. As for Lou, he played almost all of New York from start to finish, the climax of which was a version of one of my favorite songs on the album that made it even better..

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Certain Songs #982: Lou Reed – “Dime Store Mystery”

Album: New York
Year: 1989

If in “Doin’ The Things That We Want To,” Lou Reed referenced the films that his buddy Martin Scorcese made about New York, then it’s weirdy ironic that he closed his album about New York with a song about a film Marty made about a time and place far far away.

That film, of course, is The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorcese’s film that featured a controversial sequence where Jesus comes down from the cross and experiences an alternative reality as a normal man. You know, like that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard gets hit by an energy beam from a probe and lives out the life of a guy named Kamin, but much less blasphemous.

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Certain Songs #981: Lou Reed – “Romeo Had Juliette”

Album: New York
Year: 1989

It seems like every great 1960s artist who survived into the 1980s had their “1980s” album. The record where the temptation to be contemporary ends up outweighing their normal instincts to hoe their own rows.

So Bob Dylan had Empire Burlesque and Neil Young had Landing on Water, and Lou Reed — who had a better overall 1980s than the other two combined — had 1986’s Mistrial, which after the three great records that preceded it, shoulda been called “Misfire.”

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Certain Songs #980: Lou Reed – “Doin’ The Things That We Want To”

Album: New Sensations
Year: 1984

My favorite of all of Lou Reed’s solo songs, the utterly gorgeous “Doin’ The Things That We Want To” is a pean to artistic freedom that also slyly name-drops some of his famous friends in other mediums.

But it’s also more than that, which is insane, because artistic freedom is pretty much one of the two defining characteristics of Lou Reed, because in the ongoing repetition of variations of the title, I think he gets at a deeper truth about fandom and its relationship to the muse.

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Certain Songs #979: Lou Reed – “New Sensations”

Album: New Sensations
Year: 1984

Fading in like a motorcycle coming over the crest of a distant hill, “New Sensations” feels like one of the most important songs of Lou Reed’s solo career.

Or at least it is to me. I’m not normally a lyrics guy, but when a song has as great of a set of lyrics as “New Sensations” does, it’s almost impossible for me — even 21-year-old-me in 1984 — not to notice. The message, to me, was that you’re never to old to experience new sensations.

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