Some of Reed’s erratic behavior may have been related to the major mental health issues he endured. After suffering a breakdown at college, he was treated with a barbaric course of electric shock therapy. When the Velvet Underground split, Reed suffered a second less well-known breakdown and was forced to return to his family home to live with his parents.
He was diagnosed as bipolar and certainly suffered manic depressive episodes.
Which brings us back to the question of whether people want to read about the life of Reed. As I trawled through hundreds of pages about pills popped and spiteful remarks made over mixing desks, his songs kept looping in my head. “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Perfect Day”, “Last Great American Whale”, “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Hello, It’s Me”. What is this music doing? Why has it lasted so long, and stayed so pristine and so weird? Because even at its most swaggering it is vulnerable, not in the sense of caring about external approval, but in the sense of laying feelings bare, of taking risks, of being imbued with a reckless, relentless spirit of experiment. “Aw, Lou,” the critic Lester Bangs once wrote, “it’s the best music ever made.” And I can’t help wishing it could have been left at that.
Godfrey Diamond, Reed’s producer on Coney Island Baby, remembers an exchange late in his career. “Lou, all I want you to do is give me another ‘Sweet Jane’. You’re the master of writing songs about people,” Diamond remembered. “He looks at me and goes, ‘Godfrey, I try to write ‘Sweet Jane’ every day,’ in this deep, awful, mean, aggravated, upset voice. Clearly, that wasn’t the thing to say.”
Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Also, isn't it the case that, in mid-century America (certainly not long before Lou Reed's heyday), domestic violence (up to a limit) was considered normal and acceptable?
...I have heard this record characterized as "anti-human" and "anti-emotional." That it is, in a sense, since it is music made more by tape recorders, amps, speakers, microphones and ring modulators than any set of human hands and emotions. But so what? Almost all music today is anti-emotional and made by machines too. From Elton John to disco to Sally Can't Dance (which Lou doesn't realize is one of his best albums, precisely because it's so cold) it's computerized formula production line shit into which the human heart enters very rarely if at all. At least Lou is upfront about it, which makes him more human than the rest of those MOR dicknoses. Besides which, any record that sends listeners fleeing the room screaming for surcease of aural flagellation or, alternately, getting physical and disturbing your medications to the point of breaking the damn thing, can hardly be accused, at least in results if not original creative man-hours, of lacking emotional content. Why do people got to see movies like Jaws, The Exorcist, or Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS? So they can get beat over the head with baseball bats, have their nerves wrenched while electrodes are being stapled to their spines, and generally brutalized at least every once ever fifteen minutes or so (the time between the face falling out of the bottom of the sunk boat and they guy's bit-off leg hitting the bottom of the ocean). This is what, today, is commonly understood as entertainment, as fun, as art even! So they've got a lot of nerve landing on Lou for MMM. At least here there's no fifteen minutes of bullshit padding between brutalizations. Anybody who got off on The Exorcist should like this record. It's certainly far more moral a product.
His longtime wife and manager, Sylvia Reed (now Ramos), broke what she said was an 18-year media silence to dispute Mr. Sounes’s portrait for this article.
“That’s not a person I recognize,” Ms. Ramos said of the Lou Reed portrayed in the book.
....A recent article about it in The Daily Beast cited Reed’s derogatory reference to the fact that Bob Dylan is Jewish, and mentioned one anecdote in which Reed, in an interview with a journalist, referred to Donna Summer with a racial slur.
Coverage like that, Ms. Ramos said, describes a very different man from the one she was with for 18 years. “I was with him all those years,” she said. “I saw him through not only the intense cycle of drinking and drugs, but through nine lawsuits, which were extremely stressful, and his financial condition when I met him was terrible.”
“No matter how hard it got, I never had that behavior from him,” Ms. Ramos said. She added that “he was never physically aggressive with me.”
Ms. Ramos said that Reed, while not religious, was deeply proud of his Jewish heritage, and highly sensitive to anti-Semitic slurs. As for racist language, Reed was a student of jazz and soul who campaigned against apartheid. ''He never used that word in front of me and he would have been ferociously angry if anyone used it in front of him,'' she said.
Ms. Ramos also disputed the idea that Reed was mentally ill. “He saw things differently,” she said. ''He was a creative genius.'' While Reed and she had discussed his undergoing shock therapy as a youth because of depression, Ms. Ramos added: ''In the years that I lived and worked with him, he had no diagnosis of severe mental illness, no hospitalizations, no admissions to clinics, no depressive states, no interventions, no withdrawals into apathy. He was constantly productive and working.”
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