Lou Reed was a monster
October 10, 2015 6:08 PM   Subscribe

 
I feel surprisingly unsurprised by this news.
posted by jferg at 6:18 PM on October 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Hit Piece Appears On Occasion of New Biography.
posted by gwint at 6:18 PM on October 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Well, damn.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 PM on October 10, 2015


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.
Not to mention, you know, the heroin.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:21 PM on October 10, 2015 [42 favorites]




See also
posted by y2karl at 6:25 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


a rock and roll star is really an asshole? - wow, i never would have guessed
posted by pyramid termite at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


How many people, in the entire history of humankind, haven't been irredeemable assholes? A couple dozen, maybe?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:27 PM on October 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


"The Hateful Bitch" sounds like a great title. That, or my next band name.

Also curious if it's the reviewer or the author who is casting David Bowie as one of the women who's been slapped around by Lou Reed.
posted by oheso at 6:29 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


That offhanded line about "barbaric" shock therapy bugged me. Maybe his was delivered poorly, but don't spread ignorance just because electricity seems icky to you. Some people have been helped greatly by ECT.
posted by threeants at 6:30 PM on October 10, 2015 [34 favorites]


Hit Piece Appears On Occasion of New Biography

In form of interview with author of biography. But hence the See Also, which I could not get to work until I figured out the Command Key on this Apple laptop I bought at a Yard sale. I meant it to be the More Inside but I am a slo-o-ow learner. Now I am going to play Loade on my Fred Flintstone turntable with the new Archeopteryx stylus.
posted by y2karl at 6:32 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


How many people, in the entire history of humankind, haven't been irredeemable assholes? A couple dozen, maybe?

So what you are saying is that the mother of everybody reading this is an irredeemable asshole?
posted by Bistle at 6:33 PM on October 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


This has been another episode of Your Heroes will Disappoint You. Stay tuned for next seek's episode where we will reveal that FDR actually saved capitalism from itself.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


And okay, I realize there is a lot that really was barbaric about mental health care delivery in the last century, but people writing pieces in the now need to be attentive to doing so in a way that doesn't let real historical fucked-upness bleed into present-day stigma.
posted by threeants at 6:35 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yet, no mention of Lulu? That record is like a perfect storm of pricks.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:35 PM on October 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


how many people, in the entire history of humankind, have released metal machine music?

which actually, i like and is the only lou reed i have on cd - but i'm weird
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on October 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Lester Bangs had it on 8 track...
posted by y2karl at 6:39 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not to mention, you know, the heroin.

As far as I've heard he wasn't all that into heroin. Speed more likely.

That offhanded line about "barbaric" shock therapy bugged me. Maybe his was delivered poorly, but don't spread ignorance just because electricity seems icky to you. Some people have been helped greatly by ECT.

Lou Reed's experience with ECT was decidedly not positive and I believe not exactly voluntary.
posted by atoxyl at 6:41 PM on October 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Most of the stories I've heard about Lou Reed being rude or abusive or unpredictable take place in the '60s or '70s, maybe a few from the '80s (and okay, the VU reunion tour in '93). The electric shock therapy during college, in his case, seems to have really negatively affected him. In the years of his greatest fame, he got by with his obvious huge talent and magnetic persona. It seems like as he got older he got mellower and more kind, surely helped by more effective treatment of his bipolar condition and any lingering addictions. He never lost his sharp/dark wit, but the old buff dude doing tai chi on a roof in Tribeca while married to Laurie Anderson isn't really the same guy who was punching and insulting people in the early '70s.
posted by lisa g at 6:41 PM on October 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


There's Lou Reed the artist and Lou Reed the man (and maybe Lou Reed, the man who he became by the end) and Lou Reed as a sort of romantic fictional character archetype. I still love his music (just like I love the music of Iggy Pop and Ike Turner) but, yeah, sounds like he was a complete turd. Exult his art but not his life (except, I guess, in the redemption story sense if he did indeed become a better person by the end).
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:44 PM on October 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


from the Guardian:
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.
Exult his art but not his life (except, I guess, in the redemption story sense if he did indeed become a better person by the end)

Amen to that.
posted by y2karl at 6:45 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reportedly Luc Sante is working on a Reed biography. That's the one I'm waiting for.
posted by gwint at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was touched by a few things I read from Laurie Anderson after he died. It sounded like she was really devoted to him. But she never claimed he wasn't an asshole.
posted by trip and a half at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


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.”
Well, I mean, it is a pretty obnoxious thing to say on several levels.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


Lou Reed's experience with ECT was decidedly not positive and I believe not exactly voluntary.

Sure, yeah, unfortunately I can definitely believe that! But I do think the author should have brought up some context if the intent was to, well, bring up that context.
posted by threeants at 6:52 PM on October 10, 2015


A lot of this seems unsurprising, and I don't see how being unstable and egotistical makes you a monster. Violence against women is really the unforgivable thing here.

I may be missing something, I'm not understanding the allegations of racism based on the reported comment about Dylan, given that Reed himself was Jewish. It seems like the context is very different from a non-Jewish person using that word.

[Aside: you'd probably act like an asshole too if you faced interviews like this - 1974, some very straight Australians ask dumb questions].
posted by Pink Frost at 6:53 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:57 PM on October 10, 2015 [48 favorites]


Not like Lou
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


MetaFilter: she never claimed he wasn't an asshole.
posted by oheso at 7:01 PM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


What atoxyl said about ECT. It was a very different animal in the 1960s, and Lou is on record in at least several places about it having been a horrible experience he was more or less forced into for being homosexual.

See for example wikipedia.
posted by oheso at 7:04 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, if Lou walked down your street, could girls resist his stare?
posted by St. Hubbins at 7:06 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm seeing a lot of handwaving and justification in the form of explanations for his behaviour. "Oh, it's not his fault, it was the drugs, or electroshock, or he was underprivileged and abused, etc. etc.". And at the same time, I doubt if Lou Reed had been a woman people would be nearly so charitable.

Bottom line? We're seeing the usual attitudes at work here- male artists get a pass for their behavior, especially if it involves hurting women.
posted by happyroach at 7:09 PM on October 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Let's get some perspective here. Jeffrey Dahmer was a monster. Josef Fritzl was a monster. Idi Amin was a monster. Lou Reed was just a jerk.
posted by acb at 7:11 PM on October 10, 2015 [60 favorites]


while i totally agree that ect can be used responsibly and has a stigma that needs to be addressed, i know someone who was subjected non-consensually as a child to it in the 80s and there has to room for people to discuss the ways it was abused. it would be nice, i guess, if every mention gave a nod to the difference between its historical and current use, but when discussing the victims of the former i think there should be some leeway in expecting a complimentary mention.
posted by nadawi at 7:12 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


MetaFilter: she never claimed he wasn't an asshole.

Wow. Pretty sure this is the first time I've been "Metafilter:"-ized. Not sure exactly how I feel about that, but flattered is in the mix somewhere.
posted by trip and a half at 7:20 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone good
posted by idiopath at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm surprised that the K-slur appeared in the header but the N-slur got the asterisk treatment.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:22 PM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm not understanding the allegations of racism based on the reported comment about Dylan, given that Reed himself was Jewish. It seems like the context is very different from a non-Jewish person using that word.

Well, there is his remark about Donna Summer quoted in the article. Context aside, the N and the K words, along with the S word for Hispanics, I heard spoken all too often in my Idaho childhood. I hated hearing them spoken then and am uncomfortable hearing them still -- no matter the contexts or ethnicities of the speakers.

Upon review: pxc2000, I so agree. I was not going to near that headline,
posted by y2karl at 7:23 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lou is on record in at least several places about it having been a horrible experience he was more or less forced into for being homosexual.

According to his sister though, that's total bollocks. From the Guardian article above:

Years later, he claimed it had been administered because his parents wanted to cure him of homosexual feelings. Not so, his sister says: “My parents were many things – anxious, controlling – but they were blazing liberals.”


I met him briefly in 1972, when he was supposed to be playing in a venue I worked at, with the New York Dolls as support.

Prick was the word that first sprang to my mind as well.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:24 PM on October 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


My mom never claimed she wasn't an asshole.
posted by telstar at 7:25 PM on October 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I hated hearing them spoken then and am uncomfortable hearing them still -- no matter the contexts or ethnicities of the speakers.

as a white girl from arkansas - I TOTALLY AGREE - but i also think that it's never my job to really weigh in on how in-group stuff works for groups i'm not a part of. i think there's enough to critique him on for me personally to not pull him up on that. if someone who is jewish wants to speak on it, be upset about it or not, i'd love to hear that - but it's not for me to express an opinion on, i don't think.
posted by nadawi at 7:30 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


TRIGGER WARNING: This comment might really piss you off. I'm sorry but I've got to say this. Maybe it makes me a little bit of an asshole, too, but my integrity's at stake here...

What is it about overrated artists and fawning, enabling cult followings anyway? What makes the dubiously talented so much more likely to inspire fierce, unquestioning devotion than more capable, humbler artists? I'm going to piss lots of people off saying it (the way Reed pissed a lot of people off declaring himself the forefather of rap), but the dude's career was largely built on a certain cool aura and sense of style. What a shock he was probably kind of a sociopath--a cool aura of sexual magnetism is practically the first diagnostic criterion for the type. I used to respect the guy way out of proportion to his talent because a lot of peers I respected fawned over him. I still think he had some genuine moments of artistry in his day, but even at his best, he couldn't make it through an entire lyric without delivering at least one cringe-worthy lazy rhyme. His chops as a singer and guitarist would never have won him any golden fiddles either. The older I get, the more I feel like most of my youthful cultural idols were just lucky, dysfunctional idiots, cashing in on a fashion that happened to blow through the world and carry them along with it long enough to cement the impression they were geniuses or demigods in people's minds, back when we were still superstitious enough to believe those sometimes walked among us. I'm not too surprised or disappointed. It was kind of obvious he was probably a douche. Not too big a let down if you don't get seduced into thinking of artists/celebrities as objects of worship. He did have a hell of a knack for coming across as cool, though, and he inspired so many better artists, you can't really write the guy's cultural significance off. I think the truth is, in America we're in love with the fantasy of getting to be a guy like Reed (or Jerry Lee Lewis, or Picasso, or name your sacred monster here). It's a part of the romance of that uniquely American teen fantasy of freedom without responsibility. It's the conjoined spiritual twin of Randian objectivism dressed up in the clothes of counter-cultural credibility. Sure nobody's perfect. I don't have a problem with Reed's being human. What bugs me is a lot of people obviously think of him as something more important than just human. He was never more important than the thousands of anonymous junkies with a modest talent for songwriting that live and die every year without anyone noticing them at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:30 PM on October 10, 2015 [54 favorites]


Lou Reed hit women, and not just in that "ha ha everyone in the sixties kind of thought a slap was okay" [not that that was ever okay, but you see it in, eg, Margaret Drabble novels as neutral ]way either, as the article makes plain. He also turned on his former girlfriend, who was trans, and said a lot of gross stuff about her and about trans women in the press when it was no longer fashionable to be gender/sexuality-ambiguous in the eighties. And seriously, have you ever listened to the chorus of "Walk On The Wild Side"? I am reliably informed that at least two women of color find it really racist - and those are just the ones I've talked about the song with.

I mean, quite a lot of his work is amazing, and I'm not saying he was a terrible person from birth to the end of his days or that he didn't have a tough time - but surely it's pretty common on metafilter to say that being mentally ill isn't the same as being violent or an asshole, and that sustained assholery is not something that can be hand-waved away by saying someone is mentally ill? What in his medical history caused it to be okay for him to beat his girlfriends?
posted by Frowner at 7:31 PM on October 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


Well, there is his remark about Donna Summer quoted in the article....and am uncomfortable hearing them still -- no matter the contexts or ethnicities of the speakers.

True. I certainly share your discomfort there. On preview, I think nadawi expresses my thoughts very well.
posted by Pink Frost at 7:31 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Lou Reed Jack-o-Lantern makes more sense now than I realized at the time.
posted by Flashman at 7:32 PM on October 10, 2015


At the end of the day- what difference does it make if he was an asshole or a god or something in between? He was a human being, and just because he was talented doesn't cause him to be perfect. It doesn't make his songs less amazing, or his contribution to a pivotal time in our cultural landscape less. Americans favorite sport is to build people up, and then tear them down once they show they are human.

I would still have him and Laurie over for dinner if he was alive. Just maybe serve things that don't need knives to eat....
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 7:35 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


And seriously, have you ever listened to the chorus of "Walk On The Wild Side"? I am reliably informed that at least two women of color find it really racist - and those are just the ones I've talked about the song with.

I always thought that “coloured girls” was a colloquial euphemism meaning something like painted ladies, or some form of strippers/exotic dancers, and not something as mundane as, well, coloured girls.

(The fact that there was an Australian band named Paul Kelly And The Coloured Girls, after that lyric, probably helped cement that impression.)
posted by acb at 7:40 PM on October 10, 2015


but surely it's pretty common on metafilter to say that being mentally ill isn't the same as being violent or an asshole

yes! it's not my story so it's the last time i'll bring it up in this thread -but the guy i knew who had a fucked up ect experience - gentle and kind as can be. i can't imagine he has ever or would ever raise his hand to a woman. he's a feminist - and not just in word but in deed. when i knew him well he struggled with things, some of them directly related to unethical medical care visited upon him - but like most mentally ill people, he was far more likely to be a victim of abuse than to be a perpetrator of it.
posted by nadawi at 7:44 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always thought that “coloured girls” was a colloquial euphemism

Not at all, and I don't think any Americans could have read it any other way. I admit that in my younger-rock-fan days I always gave it kind of a pass as kind of a dated/ironic expression of the reality that black women provided the talent behind 90-100% of the backing vocals in American popular music (see 20 Feet from Stardom for a really entertaining, moving, fascinating exigesis on that) but there's absolutely no ambiguity there.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on October 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


Hearing of Lou Reed, I think of a paper bagged revolver.
posted by clavdivs at 7:50 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Saul Goodman -- I disagree with your assessment of his talents. I share the sentiments expressed by the reviewer in the paragraph from the Guardian quoted above. Monster he may have been, but Pale Blue Eyes is not the work of a mediocrity. His best songs rank with Dylan's better work in my opinion. His was no small talent. And as for his singing style, which to my mind owed much to Dylan, the same is true for me. It was not a conventionally pretty voice but he got his songs across.

Upon review: what LuckyMonkey21 said.
posted by y2karl at 7:54 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I guess it's not surprising that the creator of Berlin was a difficult person. It's a masterpiece but man, it is definitely the product of a disturbed mind.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:58 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


He also turned on his former girlfriend, who was trans, and said a lot of gross stuff about her and about trans women in the press when it was no longer fashionable to be gender/sexuality-ambiguous in the eighties. And seriously, have you ever listened to the chorus of "Walk On The Wild Side"? I am reliably informed that at least two women of color find it really racist - and those are just the ones I've talked about the song with.

I mean have you listened to the rest of the song? C.f the first part of your comment I quoted I don't personally remember him saying particularly transphobic things later - if you can find that it would be appreciated - but you could definitely argue he was a little too eager to use his gay/trans/underclass acquaintances to prop up his image. Though some of his lyrics really probably should not be considered solely from a 2015 perspective.
posted by atoxyl at 8:00 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, Saul Goodman, I feel the same in regards to Jonathan Richman, lyrically and vocally, who was a Velvet Underground superfan in his tender years. If, as Eno allegedly said, while it may have not sold that many copies, everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground went out and started a band, then the Modern Lovers stand first in line.
posted by y2karl at 8:07 PM on October 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


y2karl: I agree he had moments of real greatness. I tried to acknowledge that with the riff on "moments of real artistry." But where we part ways is that I don't think he really had that many when you weigh them against all the failures. Can't deny he definitely hit an occasional peak that was up there with the best. But he also just stunk things up a hell of a lot more than audiences would tolerate from a more consistent artist. Someone like Stevie Wonder or Bruno Mars has more natural musical talent in a fingernail scrap. Maybe part of the allure with an artist like Reed is how much their moments of greatness seem to come despite their technical limitations. When I was younger I always thought the best artists were those who seemed to struggle with technique but managed to hit those high peaks of artistry despite struggling against or otherwise working with the grain of their technical limitations.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:17 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Based on nothing whatsoever except that one line, I always thought the "colored girls" bit was a reference the cliche of black women singing backup in white people bands.
posted by klanawa at 8:17 PM on October 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


i've always seen that part as ironic racism - something that was more palatable to me in my younger years. now, combined with what else we know? well, seems like most ironic racism...a veneer for actual racism.
posted by nadawi at 8:21 PM on October 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


What is it about overrated artists and fawning, enabling cult followings anyway?

the velvet underground weren't overrated - they ended up inspiring whole genres of music

that's not opinion, that's verifiable fact

after that, lou sank into a trough of mediocrity broken by a few good songs here and there

it's also verifiable fact that he was an asshole

by the way, his singing style owed something to dylan, but his phrasing owed a lot to dion

and his technical limitations were at first, part of the point, although they later became part of the problem
posted by pyramid termite at 8:25 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


well, seems like most ironic racism...a veneer for actual racism.

If one considers the poststructuralist idea of the death of the author (i.e., that the personal intentions of the author of a text—a song, a blog post, an utterance in an interview—are ineffable and irrelevant), ironic racism is racism, at least so much that it can give succour to and show solidarity with actual racists. If the author secretly thinks that the racists are a bunch of dumbshits, or even says so later, they're free to ignore it.
posted by acb at 8:27 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lou liked to bait his audience, and the "colored girls" line was probably in part an example of that. But he was a student of pop music in general and a huge fan of Martha and the Vandellas in particular, and the line wasn't meant to belittle the women in question. It was more to suggest that "Walk on the Wild Side" was working a formula, dropping the last little element into place so that the trans women, hustlers and drug dealers he was singing about could hear their stories on the radio, too. And of course he was using the argot of a specific time and place — the record industry in the early 1970s.

Anyway, you'll find way more problematic lyrics elsewhere in his catalog. (You want ironic racism, Nadawi, check out the lyrics to "I Wanna Be Black.") And I don't mean to make any excuses for his treatment of the women in his life, which has been shameful by most accounts. (I hope Laurie Anderson got him at his best.) I take the whole thing in context — when he was alive, he said that he was writing the great American novel, and you could read it chapter by chapter by listening to all of his albums in alphabetical order — and I think taken as a whole his corpus offers a pretty compelling character arc, from youthful insouciance into horrifying darkness and, finally, gently, back out the other side.
posted by Mothlight at 8:28 PM on October 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


white dudes baiting the squares using ironic racism back then might have felt new or whatever, but i'm pretty much done with the whole trope. same goes for south park, family guy, girls, ted danson, sarah silverman, or whatever it is that tom hanks son was doing before rehab.
posted by nadawi at 8:38 PM on October 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


the "colored girls" line was probably in part an example of that

Honestly, at the time this came out (1972), a large swath of his audience actually just thought of people in those terms and so the attempt at baiting wouldn't even mean anything to them. I've certainly heard people of that generation take note of this line in an almost nostalgic way, a way that represented the way white people in sheltered environments thought about the music the radio was bringing them. I think his language recognized that, but at the same time, I don't think we can give him the protection of subversive intentionality here. Though he might have been voicing a set of cultural thoughts, he wasn't opposing them - he was using them archly and in a way that was meant to suggest retrospective, but I don't think you could call it baiting, because there seems to be no implicit criticism of listeners who would accept that term.
posted by Miko at 8:38 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Americans favorite sport is to build people up, and then tear them down once they show they are human.

Plenty of humans don't beat their lovers. Doesn't make them any less human.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:42 PM on October 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


If one considers the poststructuralist idea of the death of the author (i.e., that the personal intentions of the author of a text—a song, a blog post, an utterance in an interview—are ineffable and irrelevant), ironic racism is racism, at least so much that it can give succour to and show solidarity with actual racists.

I am generally inclined to see things this way but since the discussion was about how the lyric reflects on its author as a person his intent and the contex of his life is relevant.
posted by atoxyl at 8:46 PM on October 10, 2015


I blame Delmore Schwartz.
posted by clavdivs at 8:46 PM on October 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Americans favorite sport is to build people up, and then tear them down once they show they are human.

If there has ever been a statement on MetaFilter that more perfectly shows how we as a society do not see men beating women to be the action of violent, controlling bigotry that it really should be, then I haven't seen it.

I wouldn't let this man in my house; I wouldn't visit someone else's house with this man in it.

This may be because I have very strong feelings about people who degrade and beat people like me and who write not-so-ambiguous song lyrics about it.

I also have feelings about people who excuse the behavior as "being human" and the well-deserved anger and disgust toward these entitled, terroristic assholes as "tearing people down."
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:55 PM on October 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


I blame Delmore Schwartz.

Might as well blame Lenny Bruce, posthaste if not poststructurally.
posted by y2karl at 8:59 PM on October 10, 2015


I don't think you could call it baiting, because there seems to be no implicit criticism of listeners who would accept that term.

OK, fair enough. I was thinking more that he was baiting them to condemn him as racist, or at least a little naughty in his use of language. (Of course, he would have doubled-down if called out on it.) It was controversial enough at the time that a radio edit was provided that changed the line. But to me, bottom line is Lou Reed is playing a character, and that's how the character talks. Thinking about his intentions is fun, but the song is the song, and you're right that it has no interest in second-guessing its own language the way a Randy Newman song might.
posted by Mothlight at 9:06 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Americans favorite sport is to build people up, and then tear them down once they show they are human.


First of all- as someone who has worked in battered women's shelters, been a victim of domestic violence myself, and had more than a few people land on my couch running away from their abusers- I don't say this lightly. And I have more than a few feelings towards those who go searching for things to feel abused about. Even if he was fucked up- and everything points to him being that way- why is it your battle to fight? He's dead. The things that happened- happened. And can never be changed. Accept that there are grey areas in the world- Picasso was a total douche. As was Rodin, who stole Claudel's work and passed it off as his own. I could go on. None of these facts imply that it is OK to be that way. His work affected my childhood and young adulthood in a huge way- as did Einstein's, who is also have been reputed to be kind of a misogynist.
posted by LuckyMonkey21 at 9:13 PM on October 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, he won't be coming over to anyone's house, unless as a zombie.

Which reminds me of my favorite Creem headline from its Lester Bangs days:

Lou Reed: Wanted Dead or Alive
What's the Difference?

posted by y2karl at 9:22 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this. It's one thing to call a well publicized asshole rock star a monster, but, the thing is, this isn't some monstrous outlier. It's really, unfortunately, human. Fact is, society doesn't call every woman-beating man a monster. It's just easier in this case because he was nasty on so many levels. He was no worse than so many non-famous men, you know, like the ones who hit me, but no one is calling them monsters. I'm having a hard time articulating here, but there's this framing of ha ha look at this horrible person, when there are horrible people who are just like him, just not famous, or dead, and it's not a thing for them. Ugh, I shouldn't post when I have a cold.
posted by Ruki at 9:26 PM on October 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


"It’s easy to see why a Velvets freak like Lester Bangs would have been disgusted with his idol at this point. " Lou Reed shoots 'heroin' onstage in Houston, 1974
posted by Catblack at 9:30 PM on October 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking as a person who likes exactly 3 Lou Reed/VU songs, and as a person whose visceral reaction (then and now) to the whole New York in-your-face much-much-hipper-than-thou attitude is to smash full to the face of the holder of said attitude a deep-dish pizza pie, I have to ask: when does forgiveness occur?
posted by Chitownfats at 9:34 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


>> What is it about overrated artists and fawning, enabling cult followings anyway?
> the velvet underground weren't overrated - they ended up inspiring whole genres of music
> that's not opinion, that's verifiable fact
> after that, lou sank into a trough of mediocrity broken by a few good songs here and there


Goodness, yes - VU was the band that launches a million new bands. Lou Reed was also a member of VU, but not the sole member, nor the only genius singer/song writer/player. Part of the problem with their longevity.


> after that, lou sank into a trough of mediocrity broken by a few good songs here and there


No way. Transformer? Incredible Album, his magnus opus as far as I'm concerned.
Berlin? Incredible, if flawed album.
Songs For Drella? An ode of an album.

Other than New York, his other albums are not as easy to get into, I shall admit that.

His garage band stuff is totally incredible.
posted by alex_skazat at 9:53 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Berlin ? Incredible, if flawed album.

I can quote Lester Bangs from heart on this -- Who else but Lou Reed could puke up such a gargantuan slab of maggoty rancor like Berlin ?
posted by y2karl at 10:00 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm positive Lou Reed was not the nicest of people. His manager (Warhol!) was known as an unfeeling vampire, the whole scene attracted all the misfits of NYC, from drug dealers and abusers, pimps and prostitutes, people who covered the entire spectrum of sexual identity and orientation (when this wasn't such a good thing to openly have about you), the amount of deaths that happened before people turned 30 is phenomenal. The mental health problems are stories of themselves. Just gotta listen to the songs!

The whole cooler than you thing? That's the armor of a very flawed individual, with deep emotional struggles.

Hitting women? Very unfortunate. I'm not going to touch that, as there is no excuse.

But Laurie Anderson isn't some pushover. She must have seen something incredible in the man.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:01 PM on October 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can quote Lester Bangs from heart on this -- Who else but Lou Reed could cough up such a gargantuan slab of maggoty rancor like Berlin ?

Read between the lines, the dude loved him. The dude wanted to BE him! ;)
posted by alex_skazat at 10:10 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hitting women? Very unfortunate. I'm not going to touch that, as there is no excuse.

But Laurie Anderson isn't some pushover. She must have seen something incredible in the man.


and tammy wynette was a force of nature and i love george jones songs but he's still a fucking asshole abuser.
posted by nadawi at 10:12 PM on October 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


And I have more than a few feelings towards those who go searching for things to feel abused about.

This is a terrible thing to say, regardless of your experiences.

Even if he was fucked up- and everything points to him being that way- why is it your battle to fight? He's dead.

Why is it my battle to fight? Because I live in a world where misogynistic violence is commonplace and often excused, and I don't like that. I live in a world where the attitude that it's not a big deal, and that women who make noise about it are "searching for things to feel abused about" directly affects me and the people I love. It's my battle to fight because I care about justice for women, and part of making that happens means no longer buying in to the fiction that violence against us is just something that is perpetrated by men who are just being human. It means no longer ignoring it, excusing it, or pretending it's not relevant.

He's dead. The people making excuses for him are not. It's not the single abuser, but the attitude that the abuse is not a big deal, that is really the issue here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:19 PM on October 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


Was George Jones an abuser, too? Damn. I never knew that. Surely some songwriter other than John Denver has actually been at least decent in the last 50 years...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:20 PM on October 10, 2015


Was George Jones an abuser, too? Damn. I never knew that. Surely some songwriter other than John Denver has actually been at least decent in the last 50 years...

*cough*

I'm pretty keen on Tom's life, but obviously I don't know everything about him. If something emerges, particularly after he quit drinking, I'd be shocked and heartbroken
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:26 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


“Ah, I needed something to rhyme with train."

I just wanted to note that that's hilarious in context.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:42 PM on October 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


the "colored girls" line was probably in part an example of that

Honestly, at the time this came out (1972), a large swath of his audience actually just thought of people in those terms and so the attempt at baiting wouldn't even mean anything to them.


A. Miko's right. That's just how people talked in those days.

B. I was at a gig in London in the mid-90s where he dropped the "colored" from the lyric ... and people HATED him for it afterward, for knuckling under to the PC crowd. Typical of me, I didn't even notice the adjustment until the post-gig furor.

He's dead. The people making excuses for him are not. It's not the single abuser, but the attitude that the abuse is not a big deal, that is really the issue here.

I'm with you. There is no excuse for making excuses. But there's a great need for offering and understanding context. I was still a pre-teen kid when Lou Reed was deeply relevant (Velvet days, early solo stuff) so I won't try to offer that context; just say that I'm confident that there is one worth grasping. It won't establish his sainthood. It might make for a better understanding are where we are culturally and how we got here, because there's no doubt in my mind, he's one of the godfathers.
posted by philip-random at 11:10 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


he's one of the godfathers.

that is, we're all, in our way, standing on his shoulders.
posted by philip-random at 11:12 PM on October 10, 2015


Exactly no one has anything nice to say about Reed (in any regard other than his music) in the VU chapter of Please Kill Me.

If I remember right there's an anecdote about him trying so hard to be EXCEPTIONALLY shitty but Nico could cut him down in fewer words and nobody could out-bitch Andy Warhol, who was meaner, but also backed up his meanness with an underlying love.
posted by elr at 11:28 PM on October 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The violent bitterness of an exceptionally talented man surrounded by geniuses.
posted by fullerine at 12:56 AM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well this is disappointing. Surprising, no, but disappointing. I cringe at the thought of Laurie Anderson being subject to this behavior. Not that I think he physically abused her (he might have), but guys like this, even if they can reign in their instinct to hit their intimate partners, it is likely that he continued to treat his partners with disdain and verbal abuse.

Obviously not a unique situation for a visionary artist to treat those in his immediate circle as an asshole. It's hard to think of ground breaking artists who did not, particularly under appreciated ones. Morrison, Jagger, Johnny Cash, Lennon, James Brown, Jerry Lewis, Elvis, Prince, David Byrne, Paul Simon -- all famously treated other innocent people around them like shit. The fact that Dylan's name pops up in the article as one of Reed's "victims" is almost laughable.

I mostly blame drugs actually. Lord knows they turn me into a self centered asshole and I don't have a body of work in which I've laid my soul bare to an uncaring world. Having a difficult personality under these circumstances is easy to understand. Racial slurs and physical violence on the other hand are never excusable and I'm sorry for those that Es psuffered these injuries. I'm sorry (and surprised) that Reed grew up with out the moral rudder to steer through all of this given how empathetically he could write about marginalized people.

And it certainly isn't true that his career peaked with the VU. Transformer is easily one of the greatest rock albums ever made, not to mention Songs for Drella, New York, and 20 minutes of the most gut punching popular music ever made, Street Hassle. You can neither discount his creative output, nor can you excuse the mans' personal behavior. Overall, I think the world's a better place having him in it and it just makes me all the more grateful when nice guys make it big,
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:58 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I remember the gag when he had a liver transplant that the liver was finding him difficult to work with.
posted by colie at 1:20 AM on October 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think that one of the ways we create cultural consensus is to say "No, Lou Reed may have been a genius but the fact that he beat women forever taints how we think of him". I don't think that the fact that there are lots of men who hit women who are not called monsters changes this. For one thing, when there's a man in my personal life, known to me, who beats his partners, I think he's a monster - there may be millions of abusive men out unknown to me, but that doesn't mean that I am excusing them. For another, I think that the more this stuff gets talked about and condemned, the more you have to be a "nice guy" to make it big - or at least, the more you have to refrain from physically abusing your partners. Physical abuse of a partner should be a career-ender, frankly, even if you're the biggest genius who ever geniused. I don't think you get there by perpetually saying "well, in the past it was okay to hit women and the men who hit them weren't really such bad guys, we wouldn't want to judge them too harshly".

I think it's tricky, a bit, when considering the past, because hitting women seems to have been so okay. Like, there's this Margaret Drabble novel which came out in 1980 where there's a great deal made of how the male romantic lead finds his soon-to-be-ex-wife very provoking and knocks her around, and while this is regrettable, after all, she was very provoking and it was basically her fault. It certainly doesn't mean that he isn't a wonderful guy. And this is an explicitly feminist novel! (For MD-ian values of feminism). Many of her earlier novels also have a lot of asides about the romantic lead hitting his wife and/or the protagonist in a fit of pique, and there's never any textual suggestion that this is abnormal or bad. The past is another country, all right.

But I also think that one has to draw the line somewhere when considering the past, since otherwise we're left with a political philosophy that says that things can only be bad in retrospect - it wasn't really bad to kick your gay kid out in 1988, for instance, because after all everyone kicked their gay kids out in 1988, etc. Just as we can't really expect Lou Reed to recognize structural misogyny in 1970, we can't expect parents to recognize homophobia in 1988. Or worse, since women expected to be beaten in 1970, they didn't really suffer as much (which seems to be the inplicit Drabble view.)

I'm not saying "therefore all his music is forever ruined and only bad people would listen to it"; but I am saying that it's haunted music.

As to the chorus of "Walk On The Wild Side", yes, it's meant to be ironically retrospective. For me personally, that's one reason it bothers me - that this language is so trivialized that it's available as an ornamental retro building block for the chorus, that it's meant to be soothing.

But again, when we handwave away the problems with the song, we're leaving the song to be played now without comment, or forever without comment, and that language gets to be repeated again and again and again without comment because it's the work of a "genius".

I think it's a genuine tension that can't be resolved in a satisfactory way and has to be negotiated anew in each instance, and it's never comfortable. This is a kind of problem that I often encounter when teaching or recommending feminist science fiction of the seventies and eighties, and I think that the discomfort and the awkwardness is the good way to handle important work that contains unacceptable material or was produced by people who committed unacceptable actions.
posted by Frowner at 1:28 AM on October 11, 2015 [24 favorites]


happyroach: "Bottom line? We're seeing the usual attitudes at work here- male artists get a pass for their behavior, especially if it involves hurting women."

We're seeing a MetaFilter thread where a bunch of people are defending a person's behavior, and a bunch of other people are attacking that behavior. Whereas if it were an article about a woman, we'd be seeing a MetaFilter thread where a bunch of people are defending a person's behavior, and a bunch of other people are attacking that behavior.
posted by Bugbread at 1:41 AM on October 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't understand what's racist about the chorus of WOTWS. It seems to be a reference to the Motown that was played in a lot of gay and drag bars at the time. The word colored, in 1972, seems like it connoted a naive conception of race, not ever pejorative, just descriptive and then outdated, a relic discarded in the tumult of the 60s, like Motown music. He's contrasting the beauty and gentility of Motown with the brutality and depravity of the life of a scene full of junkie prostitutes. Lou was definitely racist sometimes, don't get me wrong. He'd probably be the first to tell you. But I don't see it with this song.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:48 AM on October 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is any of this news? No, seriously, did everyone not know that Lou Reed was as famous for being a 'fucking asshole' as he was as a musician?
And as toxic an individual as he might have been, you never met this other guy I knew once who was an out-and-out killer. I mean, Lou Reed was pretty run-of-the-mill shit-head we all have the obligation (self preservation) to try and drag up to a sense of human compassion. I mean shit, the Koch brothers, those guys are much worse and their goals, what they want to do with their lives, is force through economic oppression everyone to agree that their view of the world is the right one. Lou Reed is a real piker next to them.
I do wonder how he changed/evolved as a person over the last 20 years of his life. I've heard from a couple people that he actively worked at being less of a shit. He helped Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons and a bunch of other musicians around NYC.
I've met some of my 'heros' but I never wanted to meet him. I wonder if I didnt mess that up.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:56 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not saying "therefore all his music is forever ruined and only bad people would listen to it"; but I am saying that it's haunted music.

Moreso with Lou Reed than others because so much of his music is based in his own awfulness, of course. Had he not been abusive, a druggie, an asshole, could he have written and played the way he did? You cannot as easily detach the man from his art the way you might with others.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:10 AM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


What stuck out to me on relistening to "Songs for Drella" last year is that there are three, rather than two, threads of monologue: Lou Reed beating his chest over not reconciling with Andy Warhol before his death, John Cale celebrating Warhol's life while mourning his passing, and Cale tweaking Reed for being too self-riteous and insecure to try approaching Warhol in his waning years.
posted by ardgedee at 6:07 AM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]



Moreso with Lou Reed than others because so much of his music is based in his own awfulness, of course. Had he not been abusive, a druggie, an asshole, could he have written and played the way he did? You cannot as easily detach the man from his art the way you might with others.


Thus placing Lou Reed in the same category as H.P. Lovecraft and Klaus Kinski: talented awful human beings whose talents and awfulness are inextricably connected.
posted by acb at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


> that is, we're all, in our way, standing on his shoulders.

Yeah. It's kind of like standing in a hole.
posted by jfuller at 6:56 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]



> that is, we're all, in our way, standing on his shoulders.

Yeah. It's kind of like standing in a hole.


Just wait until you hear about Henry VIII, or Thomas Jefferson.
posted by acb at 6:57 AM on October 11, 2015


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 remember seeing a lot of typical newspaper cartoons from that era which would depict the typical married couple long out of their honeymoon with the wife having a black eye, when the caption/theme had nothing to do with domestic violence, implying that the husband smacking wifey around from time to time was seen as a normal part of the unglamorous reality of marital life.
posted by acb at 7:00 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thus placing Lou Reed in the same category as H.P. Lovecraft and Klaus Kinski: talented awful human beings whose talents and awfulness are inextricably connected.

I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with that comparison. HPL believed some truly heinous shit, and it's an inextricable aspect of his work, true. Leaving the My Best Fiend mythologizing aside, Klaus Kinski was a rapist and a child molester. I don't buy for a second that his psychopathy was a necessary component of his undeniable talent; I think it's more likely that they just existed side by side in the same shitty human being.
posted by Merzbau at 7:15 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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?

among some people it was, but i remember growing up with the idea that a man who hit a woman, (or a boy who hit a girl), was a bad person - i'm well aware that it was often overlooked by the authorities and hushed up a lot, but it certainly wasn't considered acceptable by quite a few people, even in mid-century america
posted by pyramid termite at 7:27 AM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


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?
WTF, no. No. Domestic violence was like rape: it was officially a terrible, terrible thing that only terrible, terrible people would do, but in practice it was culturally and officially tolerated. "We don't know the whole story/ she must have done something to provoke it/ he's a good guy, and only monsters beat their wives, so he can't be a wife-beater/ it's a family matter and we shouldn't interfere/ if it's really that bad, why doesn't she leave him?", etc. It was also joked about all the time by people who would have said that of course they condemned wife-beating, how on earth could you be so offensive and insulting as to suggest otherwise, it's just a joke, can't you take a joke, jokes have nothing to do with reality. But no, everyone was aware that you weren't supposed to beat your wife or girlfriend. Lou Reed was certainly aware of that. He doesn't get a pass because he was just ignorant about the not-coolness of beating up your domestic partner.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:05 AM on October 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Had he not been abusive, a druggie, an asshole, could he have written and played the way he did? You cannot as easily detach the man from his art the way you might with others.

I dunno, this appears facially to have some degree of logic because it's a cliche, but is there really anything to it? I don't see any reason to believe it holds much truth, personally. Even if the rationale is, "we need music from fucked-up perspectives," there are many great artists who have shown us you can channel fucked-upness without actually being terrible.
posted by threeants at 8:06 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's just that talent varies independently from ethics and morality. Sometimes they coincide, often they don't have a strong relationship. Arguing for the "inextricability" of art and life when someone has a miserable, angry, damaging life forgets that most art is inextricable from the creators' lives. Though suffering, anger, and even hate can be used as fodder for art, it isn't a necessary condition for anyone's art. There's an alternate universe in which a Reed who was able to grow up kind and disciplined did amazing creative work as well. Part of that alternative universe would need to be an environment that didn't minimize and tolerate dangerously aberrant behaviors. I think we tend to buy into, in part, the "tortured artist" narrative because the arts are often situated as a place in society where transgression is more tolerated, and that can tend to mean a degree of tolerance and indifference that provides tons of cover for behavior that would not fly in more conventional milieus. Sometimes that's good, as it lets people flourish who'd be rejected in other endeavors. Sometimes it creates a rich growing medium that hides and covers up and apologizes for things like drug addiction, sexual abuse, mental health issues, violent tendencies, poorly developed social skills, etc. Both things are true. People can be very very talented or not so much. And they can be very very well-adjusted or very fucked up. But there is no necessary relationship between the two things. So for me, it's not "Lou Reed was talented, but he was a monster," it's "Lou Reed was talented and he was a monster."
posted by Miko at 8:22 AM on October 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


The history of music is rife with assholes, everyone from John Lennon and Jimmy Page going back to Wagner and Liszt, etc. Just because you like their music doesn't mean you have to apologize for their terrible behavior (especially once they're dead and the continuing success of their music no longer directly supports them).

I blame romanticism for elevating these types of personalities to superstardom. Odds are if someone's life is romanticized/cool they're probably a real jerk; being decent and having healthy relationships is deeply uncool.
posted by Ndwright at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


He's so vicious. He hit me with a flower...
posted by AJaffe at 8:49 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


being decent and having healthy relationships is deeply uncool.

That's the problem, isn't it? We choose to label the dysfunctional stuff "cool" as a culture--we encourage it among our artists and almost insist on it. Who we are as a culture, our values, shape what we think of as cool. There's a strain in our culture that romanticizes being the kind of asshole who demands absolute freedom for themselves, no matter the cost to others around them. The addiction problems Reed had are one thing--addiction genuinely deprives a person of some degree of their personal agency. Ironically, we seem to encourage the kinds of behaviors and habits that reduce an artist's ability to exercise true, free agency in the name of granting them more personal freedom. It's perverse.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:05 AM on October 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are many monsters who were the greatest artists. Or vice versa. And monsters, too, are human beings. Sometimes the hand does not wash the other hand.

We want scapegoats, vessels of pure evil but there are no such things. The worst acts are committed by human beings who are, by any test known to science, indistinguishable from the rest of us. If we believe that evil acts make for evil irredeemable persons, our prisons should stay stuffed forever.

I heard Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Diane Rehm Show Friday on the topic of mass incarceration. He made the point that the nonviolent drug offenders are the easy and fewest of releases. But what we will have to face is that releasing people who have committed the most heinous of crimes are going to be the hard and necessary part. Because they have paid for their crimes in terms of time spent imprisoned -- far beyond the length of time they would be imprisoned in Europe. And to what benefit to the rest of us ?

He gave an example from his latest article on mass incarceration of a man who committed a horrible murder as a teenager. Who is now 58 years old, has turned his life around in prison and has been recommended for parole by his parole board three times. But no governor will ever release him. Because we the people want vessels of pure evil to burn. It is one of our oldest and most beloved religious practices -- human sacrifice.

We want scapegoats, monsters to torture for their sins forever. Look at how we treat any felon -- their lives are tainted forever.

Among other things, it can be safely said Reed was a soul in torment. Yes, he did awful things. But to say he must be condemned forever after and his art shunned is craziness. As crazy as any Freedom Caucus voo doo.

Obvious Godwin example aside, I would contend monstrous acts are not committed by monsters but people just like you and me. And scapegoating is, by the way, how you know who got that ball rolling.

Most of us never commit such evil accts. But there but for Fortune, go you or I. Darkness is in the wings for us all.
posted by y2karl at 9:08 AM on October 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


I grew up reading Lester Bangs' fascinating and horrifying interviews with Lou Reed before I listened to his music, so I kinda started off disillusioned. For me Reed was always an idol designed not to be idolized, the top of a list of famous artists that you do-Not-want to meet in real life.

So I'll disagree with that part of Saul's statement that "the dude's career was largely built on a certain cool aura and sense of style..." What I saw was a mean, neurotic person who wrote a few remarkable songs, and made too many terrible-sounding live albums (and MMM, a fun prank). From my perspective I didn't see so much of "the fawning, enabling cult followings"... but I'll admit this did come out right after he died, yes, but that often happens to public figures.

Point is, nobody is defending or excusing Reed's personal behavior, not here today anyway.
The real aesthetic question is: how much does an artist's off-stage life influence your perception of their work? Aesthetically this isn't a right or wrong answer, it's how an individual perceives a work. For some people it's a simple all or nothing proposition. For other people it's more complicated.

"Oh, I do believe you are what you perceive..."

posted by ovvl at 9:15 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Always happy to use myself as an example of clueless white person growing up in an almost entirely white town in rural America! I remember in high school we were allowed to listen to the top-40 station over the school PA during study hours and that's how I heard songs like "Space Oddity", "Alice's Restaurant", "American Pie" and "Take a walk on the Wild Side", the lyrics of which no one in the Principal's office could possibly have been listening to, or this would not have happened. Anyway, no kids thought "coloured girls" was racist. As sheltered as we were, we understood this to be an ironic use of the words to refer to the previous decade, when white America was happy to be soothed by background black performers without ever thinking hard about it. We couldn't make out the lyrics to the verses (!), and thought it was a song about life in NYC, where everything was edgier than it was in our town. We assumed the NYC the song was talking about was a NYC with people interacting in a more complicated way than what happened in our town, and that Lou Reed was adding the chorus to help ease us over to a more complicated world.

I never for one minute thought Lou Reed was a nice person and can't imagine how anyone listening to "I'm Waiting for the Man" would ever think so. But that's a great song.
posted by acrasis at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Richard Brautigan was blown apart by shock treatment in the 1950s. Absolutely blown apart.
(Fun fact: Brautigan was blown apart in the same facility in which "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest" was later filmed.)

Townes Van Zandt was blown apart by shock treatment in the 1960s. Absolutely blown apart.

Done incorrectly -- as it very often was in the 1950s and 1960s -- ECT can be absolutely devastating. What is practiced today is a completely different animal than what was done to human beings -- often against their will, as you might imagine -- in years gone by.

So if anyone has a beef with it being referred to, okay, the writer didn't say "Oh, and by the way, ECT is practiced completely differently today than it was when Lou Reed had his neato times with it."

Maybe the writer didn't/doesn't know. Maybe the writer is looking for a sexier story, if said writer thinks this stuff is funny. Clearly the writer didn't have an editor who held to any kind of rigor in their role.

~~~~~

Lou Reed was a good-looking mofo.

Lou Reed was intensely creative, on fire with smarts, exploding with gifts for us.

Lou Reed had very, very few boundaries imposed upon him, due to these two bits of circumstance.

.....

Lou Reed was mentally ill.

Lou Reed dug the living shit out of drinking and drugging.

Lou Reed had very, very little chance of imposing boundaries upon himself, due to those last two bits of circumstance.

~~~~~

Here's a kid -- he was a kid you know, when fame landed on him -- here's a kid that everyone wants to fuck and suck, a kid who has Art exploding out of him, a kid who is hard as nails from living in a hard as nails city, surrounded by hard as nails junkies and whores and artists and scum, mean pieces of shit with sharp elbows they throw hard at your nose.

The hard world in which he lived is his oyster, he's mentally ill, and as many mentally ill people (not all, but many) as many mentally ill people do, he drank and drugged heavily, which both calms the beast yet in another way frees it to rage even more freely (a neat trick, that is), he's got nothing to boundary him, he's got money and excessive freedom and people pretty much fawning over anything he said or did, and all of this starts when he's really young and anyone is surprised he turned out to be a prick?
posted by dancestoblue at 9:33 AM on October 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


"You were right. You begged us—Please don’t let them bury me next to my mother. Have a party to celebrate moving from this world hopefully to a better one. And you Lou—I swear—and you know if anyone could I could—you Lou must never write for money or I will haunt you."

-Lou Reed, "O Delmore how I miss you"
posted by clavdivs at 9:46 AM on October 11, 2015


When I was a teenager in the 80s in the UK, everyone winced at the 'coloured girls' line. He doesn't seem to be inside a persona other than his own when he sings it, unlike lots of his lyrics make a point of. Good on him for changing it years later in performance.
posted by colie at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2015


"The Velvet Underground’s alternate version of “European Son” brings to life Reed’s harrowing nightmare by conjuring up the literal soundtrack of what it would actually sound like if you were to experience the same electro-shock therapy that Lou lived through as a teenager in 1959. This intense “European” incantation spawned a more powerful and personal offspring, by being the lyrical and rhythmic precursor for 1974’s “Kill Your Sons.”
posted by clavdivs at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2015


that is, we're all, in our way, standing on his shoulders.

Yeah. It's kind of like standing in a hole.


Just wait until you hear about Henry VIII, or Thomas Jefferson.


or pretty much all of the great blues men. What do you think most of those songs are about?
posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just wait until you hear about Henry VIII, or Thomas Jefferson.

Form my point of view it's kind of great that we're able to dig into and critique Thomas Jefferson (I know little about Henry VIII). His full life history, including what some call his "flaws" and others his moral blind spots or active cruelties, is more interesting and thought-provoking than a scrubbed-up version of him is. We learn more about the American past and about our society today by admitting, documenting, and talking about his mistakes and failures and hypocrisies as well as his successes and inventions and ideals than we would by only talking about the latter. So I'm not sure if that comment was supposed to be like "ha ha, all your heroes will fall," or something, but in fact I think it ends up arguing that of course we want to understand talented figures in their full humanity and that it can in fact influence the way we think about their work without requiring us to say that their work was useless or bad.
posted by Miko at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Miko - I'm with you all the way.

I've used this analogy before but it's worth repeating. My neighbor has beautiful roses. My neighbor is revealed to be a child molester. Must I now hate and/or destroy his roses?

But is it really that simple? As others have noted, much of what's nasty about Lou Reed seems to be wound very close to what's great about him. Pushed to decide, I'd probably choose Heroin as his greatest song, and yet I long ago gave up playing it, because it's so celebratory, so committed, it's worshiping that fucking drug which has destroyed so many lives. And yet in doing so, it's making a point that couldn't be made otherwise. Why do junkies do what they do? Why do they flush their lives down the sewer because of some drug? Because heroin's not just some drug. It's The Kingdom.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


...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.
It is the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum.
posted by y2karl at 11:05 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


he's got nothing to boundary him, he's got money and excessive freedom and people pretty much fawning over anything he said or did, and all of this starts when he's really young

As somebody who recently had the experience of being a junkie first hand for the first and hopefully last time, I can tell you, it might look like a kind of freedom from the outside, but the experience of it is the opposite. You gradually lose all sense of who you are and of having any control over your choices. You spend every day confronted in the most humiliating ways with your own lack of self control and lack of personal freedom. Until you're high again, when you get to experience an illusion of complete release from your responsibilities and to experience a sensation it might be tempting to mistake for freedom. But actual freedom is about being able to meaningfully plan for the future, reach personal goals, have the resources you need to do the things you want to do in life, the ability to reflect and make deliberate choices and not be controlled by instinctual drives and impulses that may run counter to what you want for yourself and your life. Being a junkie steadily eats away at your actual freedom while placating you with experiences that simulate a feeling of freedom.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:22 PM on October 11, 2015 [19 favorites]


Tell it, saulgoodman.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:50 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


there are a few artists out there whose work is so excellent that I turn a blind eye to their shitty interpersonal behavior (Miles Davis, Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell), but nothing Lou Reed wrote can make me even momentarily forget he beat women.

for anyone despairing that every talented songwriter out there seems to be an awful human being, check out John Prine: brilliant writer, stunning musician, and lovely, lovely person - and he's still around to appreciate your fandom.
posted by sallybrown at 1:50 PM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've used this analogy before but it's worth repeating. My neighbor has beautiful roses. My neighbor is revealed to be a child molester. Must I now hate and/or destroy his roses?


When the music is so intensely bound up with someone's personal issues, I think the correct metaphor can be more akin to the neighbor with beautiful roses who nurtured them with the bodies of his young victims. What then?

It's like why I can't really listen to Ben Folds sing about love and relationships anymore, knowing he's had four wives. Same for Richard Bach's books, knowing the dude who wrote about soulmates eventually left Leslie Parrish and took up with a younger woman. OK Go at least apologized for their thoughtless jokes about Ferguson last year, but it still damaged the way I felt about their music. Yeah, it's easier to be over these creators because I also pretty strongly associate their works with earlier relationships I was in—but that's part of the point, too. We let these people into our minds and lives. They're our soundtrack; they speak for us. Shouldn't we demand more than half-assed catharsis from the people we privilege this way?

It's like the line in High Fidelity about whether we listen to music because we're miserable or vice versa.
posted by limeonaire at 3:36 PM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


See also: Thurston Moore leaving Kim Gordon for another woman. This bullshit of older rocker dudes leaving their wives for some young thing isn't new, and it's not on the same level as abuse, but it's so unpalatable and unattractive, at least considered from the wife's perspective. Yet that's part of the whole deal, isn't it? We love rock shows because they're primal, because beyond being cathartic, they also channel something that leaves everyone wanting the performers. "If I could ride that wave," you think. But you don't think about what then. When you're young, thoughts of futurity, of his skin stretched tight over his skull as he lies dying, of his scorned wife cursing you, don't enter the picture. (Actually, to those of a certain mindset, the scorned wife cursing you might be a bonus turn-on.)

In that sense, it's easy to think, "Well, they believe they've got a line on the fountain of youth. They're subjected to abnormal levels of temptation, and who wouldn't find it hard not to succumb?" It's the same kind of situation as with the drugs; people and managers make it easy to get what you need, both to ensure access and to ensure compliance with whatever they want to slip past you. And there are so many damaged personalities among musicians and their hangers-on; all my musician friends just laugh every time I mention it. There are a million stories.

But again, abuse is something else entirely, and beating your wife isn't a matter of temptation (though the phrase "poor impulse control" comes to mind). What is probably true is that all of these things are related, and all of them make a case for why it's hard to separate the music from the person and from the culture that surrounds it. The culture itself glorifies a lot of this as being a necessary sacrifice to the muses. I always used to be firmly in the "If it sounds good" camp, but perhaps ironically, as I began to learn more background info about the music and musicians, I've become far less likely to agree you can separate the art and the artist. Too many people are willing to overlook way too much.

If you're into an artist's work but the artist has issues, at very least you have to own it, I think. But as I've gotten older, I tolerate even that less.

(Some part of me still says the cheating and leaving is relative, that it's just the bourgeois, conventional values I've internalized that say monogamy matters. That may well be true. But if you've agreed to uphold some form of those vows and you don't live it, yeah, I judge that. Of course, I was about to say, "if you don't walk the line," and then I remembered how Johnny Cash wrote that during the time period when he was utterly failing at walking the line in his first marriage. So there's that, too.)
posted by limeonaire at 5:06 PM on October 11, 2015


P.S. Exhibit A for a rocker dude who exudes sex onstage and is still with his wife after four decades (I even saw her dancing off to one side at a show): Blue Öyster Cult's Buck Dharma.
posted by limeonaire at 5:18 PM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I keep thinking of Loni Anderson from WKRP in Cincinnati.
posted by slogger at 7:16 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mike Watt of the Minutemen is by all accounts a decent, upstanding human being, if'n you're into that sort of thing.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:19 PM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


How many people, in the entire history of humankind, haven't been irredeemable assholes? A couple dozen, maybe?

I thought I was the most cynical pessimist around, but if you haven't encountered more than a couple dozen non-assholes in your entire life, that sucks.

When Paul Morrissey, the Velvet Underground’s one-time manager, was interviewed for Howard Sounes’s book, he asked waspishly if people want to read about the life of Reed, before giving his own suggestions for a title: The Hateful Bitch or The Worst Person Who Ever Lived.

Now those are good book titles.

Mike Watt of the Minutemen is by all accounts a decent, upstanding human being, if'n you're into that sort of thing

Nels Cline seems like a good guy. As does George Benson. And in all honesty, so did Limahl. What does it all mean?!
posted by mrgrimm at 7:44 PM on October 11, 2015


Just finished a couple books on The Rolling Stones. None of them of course were poster boys for good behavior but Brian Jones, now there was a mess of a human being if there ever was one, ingesting every drug available and yes, beating women. Though Anita Pallenberg did punch the little fucker back.
posted by Ber at 8:29 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's like why I can't really listen to Ben Folds sing about love and relationships anymore, knowing he's had four wives. Same for Richard Bach's books. See also: Thurston Moore leaving Kim Gordon for another woman.

See to me this is "being an asshole"/"being an imperfect human being" while Lou Reed is on quite another level.
posted by atoxyl at 9:36 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nels Cline seems like a good guy

Can confirm this. Saw him walking through the crowd the day after Wilco's set at Primavera, ran up to him and acted like a total fanboy, and he was just lovely. Acted like I was doing him a favour by stopping him to tell him I liked his band.

John Darnielle also seems like a decent human being and is vocally pro-feminist on Twitter.

And seeing he's been mentioned a few times in here: I know a venue owner who booked Jonathan Richman, and he says Richman is one of the nicest people around [venue owner is famously misanthropic and has probably met thousands of bands, so that's high praise].
posted by Pink Frost at 10:32 PM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, he has written a song entitled My Career as a Home Wrecker and was the aforementioned Velvet Underground superfan to the point he was crashing on their manager's sofa.
posted by y2karl at 4:56 AM on October 12, 2015


But he is, a remarkably generous and sensitive man. He remembered my name from a first conversation a year before. And left a happy birthday message on my girlfriend's voicemail in trade for a doo wop collection CD. I can think of few artists are as kind and generous to fans as he.

And written a song like You Can Have a Cellphone That's OK But Not Me. For which I and fellow Luddites everywhere respect him profoundly.

But I am certain he has a high opinion of Lou Reed as an artist, however nuanced his opinion of him as a person might be.
posted by y2karl at 5:11 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I think it's a genuine tension that can't be resolved in a satisfactory way and has to be negotiated anew in each instance, and it's never comfortable.

Thank you for writing that so perfectly; I may steal it for future MetaFilter threads in which we're going through the good-art-bad-person fandango.
posted by languagehat at 7:44 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mike Watt of the Minutemen is by all accounts a decent, upstanding human being, if'n you're into that sort of thing.
posted by pxe2000


Enemy of the English language, though.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 8:07 AM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lou Reed was mentally ill.

As so many of us are, Lou Reed was mentally ill. Many years ago, at a poorly attended Velvet Undergound show at The Unicorn in Boston in 1969, I sat in a row immediately behind a man who turned out to be the band's manager. At the break, Reed came to sit with the guy, and they talked animatedly about Reed's treatment for depression, oblivious of a young eavesdropper sitting nearby.

Reed careered down a dark and irreducibly solitary path which easily could have ended in self-destruction or suicide. Violence directed at loved ones is an all too common symptom for those who would direct violence against themselves but cannot. This is not to excuse anyone for ill-treatment of others, but irrational violence is a common, not to say universal, symptom of mental illness.

I choose to remember Reed for his linguistic gifts, jewels left behind by a man who could control himself only with great difficulty.
posted by rdone at 9:29 AM on October 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry Reed's behavior was what it was, but for me it still doesn't take away from the magic I have taken from his music. Almost nothing else hits me as deeply as "What Goes On," or any of a dozen other Velvet songs.

Only two musician deaths have really hit me hard emotionally in the last 20 years or so. The first was MCA in 2012, especially because he was only six years older than I am. The second, much harder hit was the utterly predictable loss of Reed only a year and a half later. He was 71, after all.

Lots of artists are terrible people. Miles Davis is maybe the most frequent example, because no amount of unfaithful behavior or domestic abuse is going to strike "Kind of Blue" from the annals of perfect jazz albums. Great art doesn't excuse shitty behavior, obviously, but neither does shitty behavior by an artist negate the work they do. As has been noted, shitty behavior rarely comes from together, happy, functional people.

It's my hope that Reed, in his later years with Anderson, grew enough to stop being the asshole described in the linked piece. It's worthing noticing that the anecdotes there all seem to predate the last phase of his life.
posted by uberchet at 3:32 PM on October 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


i just always wonder how much amazing art we're missing from the victims of abusive brilliant artists...
posted by nadawi at 4:17 PM on October 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


i just always wonder how much amazing art we're missing from the victims of abusive brilliant artists...

This. I'm not going to stop listening to Lou Reed (nothing in the article is a revelation if you've read what he said about the songs), and I'm not sure this music could have come from a person who wasn't broken and angry, because so much of it examines what it's like to harm others and yourself and yet not stop feeling. Berlin is as powerful as it is because it's written by someone who was Caroline and Jim at the same time.

But whenever I hear "Temporary Thing," I get a chill and wonder what Rachel's reply would sound like.
posted by thetortoise at 5:15 PM on October 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


i just always wonder how much amazing art we're missing from the victims of abusive brilliant artists...

I don't understand this sentence. That abusers should be appreciated for being abusers and victims for being victims, yes, but were they prevented from making amazing art in some way or are we prevented from appreciating it because of the overeclipsing fame of said abusive brilliant artists ? In regards to the latter, I would think that at least some great artists overcome great trauma to create what they do and that if their work deserves recognition, it eventually comes.
posted by y2karl at 8:18 AM on October 13, 2015


it's pretty much exactly the same as why stem fields are hostile to women - when this sort of abuse is accepted over and over and over again - victims and would-be victims fall out of the group. if you're not willing or able to accept the sort of treatment men like lou reed and his enablers foist upon you, you're not going to make it. there's a real silencing affect to turning a blind eye to this sort of treatment.

if art (or really any field) were a meritocracy it wouldn't be dominated throughout history by mainly white men.
posted by nadawi at 8:35 AM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


were they prevented from making amazing art in some way

Of course they were. Not everyone can turn the process of healing immediately into a creative process. Some people who were victims of abuse were actively prevented from pursuing creative acts or gaining the resources needed to take them public. One can only speculate but even in my own personal life I can name people with great talent and motivation whose constraints due to verbal and physical abuse and/or neglect meant that they were less able to devote the time and clear thinking they needed to develop their craft than they might otherwise have been (and often struggled with a poisonous self-doubt as a result of abuse that prevented them from taking their own work seriously enough). Those who "overcome" become our heroes and are celebrated all the more for the obstacles they face, but I don't think they are representative. For every one of them, I'd wager there are nine more who were as talented, but could not overcome as readily in order to do their work, could not create as much work, or could not develop their work in a way that brought them recognition.
posted by Miko at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


but were they prevented from making amazing art in some way or are we prevented from appreciating it because of the overeclipsing fame of said abusive brilliant artists ?

Yes to both.

Not only what nadawi said, but hey, artists are people.

Artistic talent doesn't give you some great ability to overcome trauma, nor does it give you some superhuman ability to get noticed by gate-keepers who have absolutely no reason to want to notice you, and a whole society's worth of bias saying they shouldn't.

Abuse fucks up peoples' futures, even talented people.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:49 AM on October 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Were they prevented from making amazing art in some way or are we prevented from appreciating it because of the overeclipsing fame of said abusive brilliant artists ?

Yes they were, and with the willing assistance I'd those people who say "Oh yeah, Reed was a monster, I guess, but I LOOOOOVE his music." The victims get deliberately shut out of the narrative, because it's only Reed's voice that's cared about. Aren't people really saying that they think the transient pleasure of his music is more important to them than the lives of the people he harmed?

Which makes me wonder- how many of those people winced at Berkeley's response to Geoff Marcey? Or Peter Ludlow? Or Joe Paterno? How are those cases different? Why does Reed get a pass?
posted by happyroach at 10:46 AM on October 13, 2015


The late-in-thread questions about artists vs. abusers (I should find a less reductive way to say that) makes me think about Zelda Fitzgerald's novel, which F. Scott bowlderized and destroyed for Tender is the Night.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:03 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Yes they were, and with the willing assistance I'd those people who say "Oh yeah, Reed was a monster, I guess, but I LOOOOOVE his music." The victims get deliberately shut out of the narrative, because it's only Reed's voice that's cared about. Aren't people really saying that they think the transient pleasure of his music is more important to them than the lives of the people he harmed?

Oh, give me a break. Would you mind explaining how our high-mindedly rejecting Reed's music (and Miles's music, and the art of everyone who's ever treated people badly) is going to help the people he harmed? Should I call up all his victims every time I refuse to listen to a Lou Reed song and tell them, so they can enjoy the moment? Try to keep your indignation within sensible bounds and stop implying (or, hell, actually saying) that everyone who thinks differently from you is a willing assister of monstrous behavior.
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on October 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Given the direction in which this thread has gone, I've been thinking a lot about my father.

I talk a lot about my late father here on the Blue, mostly in the context of his appreciation for 1960s/70s rock and roll. One of his favorite artists was Lou Reed, both with the Velvet Underground (who he saw almost every time they came through Boston) and as a solo artist. One of the last shows we attended before his death was Reed's Set the Twilight Reeling-era show at the Orpheum, not long after my father's cancer diagnosis.

I'm sure dear old Dad had few illusions about Lou Reed's true character, and liked his music in spite of the fact that he was by all accounts a terrible human being. At the same time, I'm thinking about my father's love of the Velvets in the context of his own life. Dad was caught in his own cycle of abuse; he had a difficult relationship with his father, and after his upbringing in a Catholic family when the "crisis in the priesthood" was in the abusive, cover-up cycle, he became an atheist and refused to allow my younger brother or me to enter a Catholic church or attend parochial school. My father both perpetuated the abuse cycle while my parents were married (for which he was incredibly repenetant in later years) and later was in a relationship with a woman who enacted abuse on him. He wrote throughout this time -- journals and letters to me and my brother, yes, but also a novel about his time with his longterm girlfriend. When he submitted that novel to publishing houses, he received one rejection letter so terrible that he burned his only copy of the manuscript...an act that haunts me to this day.

When my dad was coming of age, his love of the Velvets were a badge of honor that one had interests outside the mainstream. I'm sure their music gave him a cathartic sense of relief and an escape from the turbulent world in which he lived; I know he identified with some of Lou Reed's later work (particularly New York), the same way the work of Bruce Springsteen or Paul Auster resonated with him. Those Angry Young Men of his generation, particularly those from working-class East Coast backgrounds, hit home with him. They bring my father back to me, too -- I mean, I was named for Nico's debut solo album, for Christ's sake.

Reflecting on my father's place in the cycle of abuse, and thinking about what a monster Lou was for many years, I wonder: did Dad have a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God (sorry, Dad) attitude towards Lou? Beyond the catharsis of his music or the rebellious, countercultural attitude? Or did he just take Lou's monstrous behavior as part and parcel with the greatness?
posted by pxe2000 at 1:50 PM on October 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, give me a break. Would you mind explaining how our high-mindedly rejecting Reed's music (and Miles's music, and the art of everyone who's ever treated people badly) is going to help the people he harmed?

It's honestly not about directly helping those victims. It's really about being honest enough to say "My enjoyment of the music of his music is more important to me than the people he hurt." Because it's that attitude, reflected over and over again in so many different contexts that allows for abuse to be tolerated.
posted by happyroach at 9:49 PM on October 13, 2015


It's really about being honest enough to say "My enjoyment of the music of his music is more important to me than the people he hurt."

I think it's about being honest enough to say that my enjoyment of his music is more important to me than pointless ideological purity tests. Which is true.
posted by thetortoise at 10:15 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's really about being honest enough to say "My enjoyment of the music of his music is more important to me than the people he hurt."

Then, to be really honest, that would make Laurie Anderson, because of her postion of fame and recognition, far worthier of your condemnation because first, she married him and secondly, refuses to speak ill of him. Agreed ?
posted by y2karl at 7:57 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then, to be really honest, that would make Laurie Anderson, because of her postion of fame and recognition, far worthier of your condemnation because first, she married him and secondly, refuses to speak ill of him.

Let's not go down this "enablers are worse than abusers" road, okay?
posted by Etrigan at 8:00 AM on October 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's happyroach who's going down that road; y2karl is merely pointing out the consequences of that absurd and inhuman approach.
posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on October 14, 2015


As thetortoise showed, we can make that point without the intentionally evil worst-possible-faith-reading hyperbole.
posted by Etrigan at 10:10 AM on October 14, 2015


What is the best possible reading of the sentence I quoted ?

And your intentionally evil ? What is best possible reading of that ?
posted by y2karl at 12:06 PM on October 14, 2015


What is the best possible reading of the sentence I quoted ?

Better than "Laurie Anderson... [is] far worthier of your condemnation".

And your intentionally evil ? What is best possible reading of that ?

"intentionally evil" refers to your reading of what happyroach said, either in the part you quoted, the rest of that comment, or in anything else happyroach has said in this discussion, which has been all about how the victims of abuse have been forgotten because of the quality of the abusers' work. You were intentionally ascribing evil that was not there.
posted by Etrigan at 12:35 PM on October 14, 2015


Man, that is some preztel logic.

Because, without your generous explanation, I could have sworn you were saying my reading of that sentence was evil in its intent.
posted by y2karl at 12:47 PM on October 14, 2015


And I also could have sworn that happyroach was saying people who like Reed's music were heartless monsters who cared less for his victims because of it.

Both statements come across to me as indirect personal attacks.

Perhaps more clarity is called for here, where it is easy to read things the wrong way.

Mote, beam, eye on that.
posted by y2karl at 12:56 PM on October 14, 2015


Well, hypocrites for sure, not heartless monsters. Just to be exact.
posted by y2karl at 1:03 PM on October 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


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.”
Who was the real Lou Reed ?
posted by y2karl at 11:53 AM on November 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


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