As a member of the pioneering art-rock band The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and his cohorts John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker that created music so vastly different from their 60s contemporaries that they were largely overlooked, despite being championed by that bastion of post-modern art Andy Warhol, with their debut album only selling 30,000 copies. However their influence sustained their identity in the music world, with Roxy Music’s Brian Eno famously stating that everyone who had bought a copy of the Bands Self-titled first album went on to start a band. And it is hard not to see the impact they had, singlehandedly laying the foundations for Punk, glam rock, nineties alternative and even early 2000’s indie. Without the Velvet underground there would be no Iggy and the stooges, no Sonic Youth, no Pixies, no Strokes and David Bowie would have been a whole lot more monotone.
After leaving the Velvet Underground Reed embarked on a solo career, recordings such classic albums as Transformer and Berlin, cementing his status in the Annals of Rock and Roll history. Not content to wallow in his success however, he continued to push the envelope, leading to such ill-advised releases as Metal Machine Music, an LP comprised solely of guitar feedback which polarised critics and fans alike. However this challenge to what an album can be highlights his ability to get up the noses of even the most open-minded of music listeners, no less highlighted on his last artistic endeavour, the collaborative Lulu recorded with Metallica. However that records final song, ‘Junior Dad’ is surprisingly affecting and serves as testament to his ability to write songs that ultimately resonated. Testament to his longevity surely can be recognised through A Tribe Called Quest’s sampling of his most well-known songs Walk On The Wild Side, a classic composition of one genre influencing an equally as classic song in another.
His unprecedented lyrical content, touching upon such topics as recreational drug use and cross-dressing prostitutes proved him to be an evocative and controversial figure, and his combative style in interviews portrayed him as erstwhile and petulant. Ultimately, however, his legacy will reflect his effortless ability to craft a deluge of genre-defying, minimalist songs. His playing style, contrary to his actual above average ability, proved that anyone could play guitar and write a song. And to sum the great man up in a quote: “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”