I was sitting in my car is when I heard that Lou Reed had died. The announcer went on to say that although Reed was not as famous as the Beatles or the Eagles, bla bla—I almost rear end the car in front of me. Not as famous as the milquetoast, I-wanna-hold-your-hand Beatles? And then this dork doesn’t even mention Lou Reed’s song, “Heroin”. I mean what would you rather do, hold her hand or wait for the man? I thought about getting out of the car and holding up one of those twirly signs saying, “Lou Reed’s song ‘Heroin’ is New York’s answer to Jim Morrison’s song, ‘The End.’ You can’t get any more famous than that.” But I didn’t because the radio is right: Plastic is more famous than platinum and mercury is far more dangerous than a styrofoam eagle. Heroin, it’s my life and my wife. It echos through my skull, both dangerous, sad, and beautiful. So after my little mental rupture. I continue driving home, but something is fucked up.
I remember when Barbara Rubin brought the Velvets to Warhol’s Factory, “Andy, you gotta hear this.” Andy hired them before he knew what to do with them, before the radio refused to play them, before the police started arresting their audience for dancing on drugs. At first Andy used them as a performance piece. Raushenberg had kids rollerskating in and out of slit movie screens and Warhol had the Velvets. They were a virtuoso shattering failure who performed feed back and drone, and sometimes turned their backs to the audience for an entire set.
People hated them. We loved them. Maybe in the beginning, the Velvets wanted to offend and disturb their audience but then entertainment was not high on our list either. After all, Warhol’s movies were anything but entertainment. We were all waiting for something a little darker to come crawling up the stairs and maybe even halfway down the hallway if we were lucky and this band fit right in. They were sort of with us from then on—the next thing I knew they were a major force.
Gerard and I danced for them as if we were worshiping them. I lifted weights through “Waiting for the man.” Gerard danced with a large plastic syringe during Heroin, and we did the whip dance for “Venus in furs”. Warhol hired the Dome so the Velvets would have a place to play, where he could hang his movies around them, behind them, and even over them while they played. If Lou wanted to be famous this was not the way to go about it. Lou also refused to get rid of his girl drummer; he let Warhol hire some weird German ex-model to sing, and John Cale would not stop playing the violin. But then Lou wasn’t a poser like Dylan, he was the real beginning of punk in the U.S. He also wrote what he felt whether it fit in or not. In his painfully sweet album, Songs for Drella, he had the courage to say that he wished he had known Warhol better.
It took me a whole book to say that—I wish I knew both Andy and Lou better, I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry to race through the best time of my life.
Artillery Magazine Vol 8 Issue 2 Jan-Feb 2014