If you're like me, one of the most heartbreaking things about Lou Reed's passing this past Sunday Morning is that he never really got a swan song, that last album of a musician's career and life that really sums up their experience and infinite wisdom, a la Frank Sinatra's My Way. Reed's final credited studio album known to date was Lulu, which in my opinion was nothing more than an abysmal mashup of Lou Reed's spoken word poetry, stagnant and drenched with Metallica's "metal" riffs under it. I am of the opinion that alone, or perhaps with his own compositions, Lou's creative output for this record could have made for a haunting composition but Lars Ulrich and Metallica, in typical Metallica fashion, had to make a Metallica record, because Metallica.
The result was something as dissonant as Metal Machine Music or that noise angsty preteens would hear when they downloaded a compromised Metallica song on Limewire. Let's stop talking about Metallica now.
Emily Haines, lead singer of Metric, is on the top of my list of most important contemporary artists that cites Lou Reed as the influential voice that made her the musician she is today.
In reality, their personas bear some similarities, both came into the music scene with a comandeering and often contrary personality, both have simultaneously glorified and wrote about the pitfalls of their lifestyles, as they both suffered near-fatally from opiate and alcohol addiction. It's no secret that Emily has always looked up to Lou Reed. And fortunately, with the success of Metric through the 21st century, she was able to meet her idol, who surprised her with this oft-quoted recognition of her songwriting:
HAINES: He said, yeah, Emily Haines, who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Which was great.
SULLIVAN: What did you say?
HAINES: The Velvet Underground.
She explains their somewhat meet-cute introduction in the following interview:
Her brush with her idol did not end with meet-cute ass-kissing, fortunately. She speaks more about their friendship and the real reason why Lou Reed has notoriously hated the media and interviews.
“What I respect about that man, and I hope what he sees in me, is a desire to be spared all the floral language of bullshit and just say what you mean.”
As she explained in the video above, Lou invited her to another benefit show, and their friendship and collaboration bloomed. In this rare video of their 2011 on-stage reunion at Shelebration! in Central Park, they perform this absolutely haunting duet take of Shel Silverstein's 1962 song "25 Minutes to Go":
In an interview with NPR, she spoke more about how she came to find herself in the studio with her contrarian idol.
"When it came to finishing the record at Electric Lady in New York, you know, we'd struggled with this song of finding the voice, this world-weary voice, to be the counterpoint to this innocent yearning to just see the world, you know, which is expressed by my vocal and my lyrics. And so, yeah, I just asked him and he said yes."
Despite Reed's rapidly declining health, he made it into the studio and performed with Haines once again, providing just that world-weary, haunting contrast to Haines' youthful, flighty vocals on track 11 of the 2012 Metric record Synthetica.
At what would sadly be the end of a musical career spanning almost 5 decades and despite now very visibly severe illness, Lou even came out to Radio City Music Hall to accompany Haines one last time to sing Wanderlust one more time and, what appears to be the last live performance of a Velvet Underground song by Lou Reed, they close with this heart-wrenching duet of Pale Blue Eyes, a truly emotive performance like none I can recall. Here it is:
I don't know why they are cutting so many onions at work today, but damn... Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this celebration of Lou's influence amidst all of today's obituaries. Please post your recollections of Lou Reed and the countless musicans he has influenced and collaborated with over the years.