A couple of years ago I was in NYC to see Television, one of the great bands of the CBGB’s era, While walking through Greenwich Village the Saturday morning by friend and I were looking for a place to have breakfast and we came to a restaurant with its menu outdoors. As my friend was reading what was available I looked through the front window of the restaurant. Sitting there was Lou Reed and Antony from Antony and the Johnsons. It was like bumping into Brian Wilson on the streets of Los Angeles or Paul McCartney in front of Abbey Road.
“We’re eating here,” I said.
Lou Reed is one of the greatest artists of the rock era, without question. For those of you who only know him for his one and only big hit single Walk On The Wild Side, you’re missing out. His work in the Velvet Underground set the stage for alternative rock and was a brilliant middle finger to the psychedelic era (not that I have anything against the music of the time myself. Just the hippies). As a solo artist Lou has been hit and miss, but looking on back on his output I’d say he’s had far more success than failures (artistically if not commercially). Transformer is a glam rock classic; Berlin is a brilliant but thoroughly depressing concept album; New York is like travelling through the Big Apple with one of its most notorious inhabitants as your tour guide (check out Dirty Boulevard below); while Magic and Loss is, next to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, perhaps the greatest treatise on death and life you’ll ever hear.
It’s been nearly a decade since Lou released a solo album of new songs, and I’ve missed him terribly. But he has been working, creating soundscapes with his Metal Machine Trio, touring Berlin in the UK and various US cities (sadly the show never made it to Canada), and working with his wife Laurie Anderson on various endeavours. He’s released books of photography, celebrated the history of the Velvet Underground with an appearance in NYC with drummer Moe Tucker and bassist Doug Yule, and created his own iPhone app (LouZoom).
While all of his endeavours interest me, there is one that I found most fascinating and that’s the film he’s co-directed called Red Shirley. It’s about his cousin Shirley, who Reed decided to interview as she was about to turn 100 years old. The trailer is short, really just a teaser, but for some reason I think the film looks really interesting. I think it’s because I had two great grandmothers who lived well past 100 themselves. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older myself. Or maybe it’s because Lou looks genuinely interested and in awe of his cousin’s long life. And if you know Lou, he just doesn’t impress easily.
Check out the trailer to Red Shirley below.