Maria McKee introduced me to Lou Reed in the summer of 1986.
Not personally, of course, although I am now Facebook friends with Maria (thank you, internet!). Lone Justice was recording its second album Shelter at the time, and they played some gigs around L.A. to work on the new material. I saw two shows that summer, and they played “Sweet Jane” at both of them. Maria said it was her “favorite rock and roll song.”
1986 may seem a little late for a music junkie to arrive at the Lou Reed party, but you must consider that I grew up in Plano, Texas. Aldo Nova was considered cutting edge in Plano, Texas. I went off to college in Austin, and it’s not a cliche to say that my musical world exploded. And thanks to Maria and her band and a summer vacation in California, I went out and bought a Velvet Underground album called Loaded.
If you’re going to pick one Velvet Underground album to start with, Loaded may be the best choice, It’s certainly the most accessible (clearly by design), which may explain why Reed quit the band before the album was even released in late 1970. I played Loaded to death that year. I liked it so much that I went out and bought Mistrial, Reed’s current solo album.
That one admittedly set my fandom back a couple years. I continued to dig into the Velvets catalog, though, and I still own those vinyl pressings of White Light/White Heat and The Velvet Underground & Nico. 1989 saw Lou Reed return to masterful form with the New York album, and he continued to push musical boundaries over the next 24 years. And now, sadly, Lou Reed is gone.
It was inevitable that I would have eventually discovered Lou and the Velvets, even without Maria’s help. After all, I think it was mandated that every ’80s alternative band had to talk about them and how they discovered their records at a garage sale. An old quote attributed to Brian Eno said, “The Velvet Underground’s first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.”
No one can actually find a source for this quote, or if Eno even really said it. I can say only this: I bought a copy of that first record. Shortly thereafter, I formed a band.
Coincidence? Maybe. But probably not.
In Memory: Five Lou Reed Covers
Lone Justice: “Sweet Jane” [Live] (Lou Reed)
From the album This World Is Not My Home
Geffen Records, 1999
This must have been recorded in 1985, as it clearly features the original Lone Justice line-up. A certain famous Irishman even shows up to lend Maria a hand.
Rainy Day: “I’ll Be Your Mirror” (Lou Reed)
From the album Rainy Day
Serpent Records/Rough Trade, 1984
Vinyl rip courtesy of The Analog Kid
Yes, that is Susanna Hoffs on lead vocals. Rainy Day was sort of an early alternative super-group, similar to the revolving band member concept of the Golden Palominos and This Mortal Coil. This rare EP is one of my most-cherished pieces of vinyl.
Simple Minds: “Street Hassle” (Lou Reed)
From the album Sparkle In The Rain
A&M Records, 1984
Simple Minds gave Lou the full-on arena treatment, and it works wonderfully. Lou’s original epic version appears on his 1978 album of the same name.
Duran Duran: “Femme Fatale” [Alternative Mix] (Lou Reed)
From the CD single Perfect Day
Capitol Records, 1995
Duran Duran originally released “Femme Fatale” on their self-titled 1993 album. This alternate mix comes from the Perfect Day CD single– yes, another Lou Reed cover.
Jane’s Addiction” “Rock & Roll” (Written By Lou Reed)
From the album Jane’s Addiction
XXX Records, 1987
Rock and roll.
If you close the door, the night could last forever
Leave the wine glass out, and drink a toast to never.