In 1985 I bought a daysaver for 75p with a good friend of mine and travelled to Coventry on the bus and train (you could use daysavers on trains back in the day). Armed with about £5 each the obvious sights to see in Coventry was not the cathedral, it was not the Lady Godiva statue – it was the record shops.
On a blind mission to discover new music (new to us anyway), after deciding the Talking Heads albums looked a little lame and that Motley Crue’s self-titled album could stay on the shelf we opted for two bands we’d heard of, but never heard, if that makes sense.
Both albums we bought were in the pocket money friendly Nice Price section. It goes without saying that they were on vinyl. My friend bought Road To Ruin by The Ramones (excellent choice), I opted for White Light / White Heat by The Velvet Underground. We travelled back to Birmingham and my Sanyo Music Centre. Our mission was complete.
28 years later those 2 albums from that day are still very responsible for continued faith in real music. Back to 1985 and we taped the album we did not own for each other. In those 28 years we have played in three bands that have gigged and these creative bursts of noise are credited a lot to discovering those two bands all that time ago I’m pretty sure. Is there even a better band ever than the Ramones? The look on our faces as we heard these two quite different sounds for the very first time would have been priceless. Those sounds bursting out of the speakers. The puzzlement that turned into a light bulb as we heard The Gift for the very first time (The Velvet Underground). They joy at hearing the chorus to Bad Brain (Ramones). Go pick up a guitar, get behind a drum kit – we can do this, anyone can.
I’m writing this and reflecting as Lou Reed’s passing has been confirmed. I wont pretend to be an expert on the man and his music and just state what I know. When hearing the debut album by The Velvet Underground (in 1987) suddenly those Jesus & Mary Chain records looked not so great. White Noise. Dense Feedback. Soft Beauty. Power. Poetry. Art.
In 1989 Lou Reed released New York. This is my favourite album by the solo artist as it spoke the most to me. The lyrics and searing need to escape wrapped up in Dirty Blvd somehow remind me of both Dylan and Biafra. Perfectly sandwiched in between even. That’s where Reed stands in my mind. Someone you look the fuck up too because he IS rock n’ roll authenticity. Those scathing rich abusing poor lyrics wrapped up in saccharine for the masses (who largely ignored the song / album anyway).
I’m sure many turntables, MP3 players, iPods and even cassette decks will be playing his music as I type. Long may that continue…