You Looked at Me and I Looked at You

Quick, who is your favorite singer-songwriter?

So many favorites!  Robert Johnson, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Tom Petty, Springsteen, Prince, Bowie, on and on… how to select just one?  I know, I’ll make a playlist!  It would probably turn out to be two or three playlists.  Oh, wait, I did that recently for One-Hit Wonders.

Finally, I decide to write a piece about the tradition of storytelling.  On the eve of this “Your Song” event, your faithful blogger stared at a blank screen and reflected on the history of storytelling… a common human language transcending time, cultures and borders, to eventually merge with music, and, voila!  Troubadours burst onto the scene —

Wake me up when it’s over.

Right, I thought I heard snoring.  Hmm.

Who has stood alone, to the side of the crowd, a keen observer of life — peering unblinking into humanity’s darkness, ever seeping through endless cracks in the light (or is it the other way around?) — experimenting and growing as decades unfold, while remaining true to his own voice?

Lou Reed.

He’s been labelled glam rock, avant-garde, experimental, junkie (is this a genre?), punk rock, and a dabbler of metal.  Attempts to label are unavoidable, yet he defies tidy categorization.

An original.

When I listen to Lou Reed’s music I hear a clear and unique voice, a strong and independent thinker with a poet’s heart — a romantic struggling for air from under oppressive layers of urban decay.

A poet.

His lyrics are poignant.  Vast and encompassing messages in simple and powerful prose.  How did he master this art?  My take is the music is autobiographical of an introspective personality:  feeling deeply, taking risks and creating his own rules, he continued to grow and evolve through his life.  He had a lot to say as a result.  His experiences stripped away artifice and varnish, leaving only essential elements.  This is reflected in his writing style:


Standin’ on a corner

Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset
Jane is in her vest
Me, I’m in a rock and roll band…

You know those were different times
All the poets, they studied the rules of verse
And the ladies, they rolled their eyes…

Jack, he is a banker
Jane, she is a clerk…
Some people, they like to go out dancin’
And other people, they gotta work

There’s even some evil mothers
They’re gonna tell you life is just made outta dirt…
And that, life is just to die

But anyone who ever had a heart
They wouldn’t turn around and break it
And, anyone who ever played a part
They wouldn’t turn around and hate it….

[Sweet Jane]

~~~

Holly came from Miami, Fla.
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she…

Candy came from out on the island
In the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’…

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay…

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat…

I said, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
I said, Hey honey
Take a walk on the wild side

[Walk on the Wild Side]

~~~

Pedro lives out of the Wilshire Hotel
He looks out a window without glass
The walls are made of cardboard, newspapers on his feet
The old man beats him because he’s too tired to beg…
Pedro dreams of being older and killin’ the old man…

Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor
I’ll p
iss on ’em…
Your poor huddled masses, why don’t we just go club ’em to death
And get it over with and dump ’em on the boulevard…

Back at the Wilshire, Pedro sits there dreaming
He’s found a book on magic in the garbage can
He looks at the pictures and looks up at the cracked window
He says, ‘By the count of 3, I hope I can disappear
And fly fly away, from this dirty boulevard’

[Dirty Blvd.]

~~~

Waves of fear, squat on the floor
Looking for some pill, the liquor is gone
Blood drips from my nose, it’s too hard to breathe
Waves of fear, I’m too afraid to leave…

Crazy with sweat, spittle on my jaw
What’s that crazy noise, who’s that at the door
Waves of fear, pulsing with sweat
I jump at my own tremors, I jump at my own step
I run through the doorway, I hate my own smell
I know where I must be, I must be in hell

[Waves of Fear]

~~~

You and me, we always sweat and strain
You look for sun, I look for rain…

I look at treetops, you look for caps
Above the water, where the waves snap back…

You looked at me and I looked at you
The sleeping heart was shining through
The wispy cobwebs that we were breathing through

I looked at you and then you looked at me
I thought of past, you thought of what could be…

You know me, I like to dream a lot
Of what there is and what there’s not
But mainly, I dream of you a lot

The power of the heart
The power of the heart

[Power of the Heart]

~~~

Why can’t I be good
Why can’t I act like a man
Why can’t I be good
And do what other men can
Why can’t I be good
Make something of this life
If I can’t be a god
Let me be more than a wife…

I don’t want to be weak
I want to be strong
Not a fat happy weakling
With two useless arms
A mouth that keeps moving
With nothing to say…

I’d like to look in the mirror
With a feeling of pride
Instead of seeing a reflection
Of failure a crime
I don’t want to turn away
To make sure I cannot see
I don’t want to hold my ears
When I think about me…

I don’t want to be
What I am anymore

Why can’t I be good
Why can’t I be good

I was thinking of some kind of whacked out syncopation
That would help improve this song
Some knock ’em down rhythm
That would help it move along
Some rhyme of pure perfection
A beat so hard and strong
If I can’t get it right this time
Will a next time come along

[Why Can’t I Be Good]

~~~

I’m just your average guy

Nice try, Lou.  Not a chance.

~~~

This post is my contribution to Your Song Community Collaboration.

sswriterpst16

~~~

Need more Lou?

See his complete discography here.

The songs I featured are a small snapshot of Lou Reed’s work, which includes the following albums:

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
White Light/White Heat (1968)
The Velvet Underground (1969)
Loaded (1970)
Lou Reed (1971)
The Velvet Underground: Live At Max’s Kansas City (1972)
Transformer (1972)
Berlin (1973)
The Velvet Underground Featuring Lou Reed (1973)
Sally Can’t Dance (1974)
Rock N Roll Animal (1974)
Metal Machine Music (1975)
Lou Reed Live (1975)
Coney Island Baby (1976)
Rock And Roll Heart (1976)
Street Hassle (1978)
Take No Prisoners – Live (1978)
The Bells (1979)
The Velvet Underground With Lou Reed (1979)
Growing Up In Public (1980)
The Blue Mask (1982)
RCA Special Radio Series Vol. XVII (1982)
Legendary Hearts (1983)
New Sensations (1984)
Live in Italy (1984)
The King Biscuit Flower Hour – Lou Reed / Bruce Cockburn (1984)
Mistrial (1986)
All That Glitters – Alice Cooper, New York Dolls, The Tubes, Lou Reed (1986)
Lou Reed / Siouxsie & The Banshees (1986)
New York (1989)
Songs For Drella – Lou Reed / John Cale (1990)
Magic And Loss (1992)
Set The Twilight Reeling (1996)
Perfect Night Live In London (1998)
Ecstasy (2000)
American Poet (2001)
The Raven (2003)
Let Bataclan ’72 – Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico (2003)
Animal Serenade (2004)
Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007)
Metal Machine Music (2007)
Berlin: Live At St. Ann’s Warehouse (2008)
The Creation Of The Universe – Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Trio (2008)
Walk on the Wild Side: Recorded Live New York 1972 (2009)
Lulu – Lou Reed & Metallica (2011)
Winter At The Roxy – The 1976 L.A. Broadcast (2014)
Hassled In April – Live in Chicago 1978 (2014)
Metal Machine Music: First Full Instrumental Version (2014)
Thinking Of Another Place (2014)
Alice Tully Hall (2016)
Waltzing Matilda (Love Has Gone Away) (2016)
The Bottom Line Archive: Lou Reed & Kris Kristofferson In Their Own Words With Vin Scelsa (2017)

~~~

lr

.

_________
Copyright Disclaimer:
Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as comment, criticism, scholarship, teaching, research and news reporting. Fair use is a use permitted.
“Fair Use” guidelines: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
_________

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42 thoughts on “You Looked at Me and I Looked at You

  1. Great Choice Danica, I loved Lou Reed, and yes I’ve lots of favourite singer/songwriters, so many, but I’d always go for the sublime Leonard Cohen, again so many songs, an early one, “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong”, and one of his very last songs, “If I Didn’t Have Your Love”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Ivor! There’s a lot to love and nobody like him. Ah, yes, Leonard Cohen. “Chelsea Hotel” is still a favorite. Does this mean you’ll be joining in with a blog post? There’s still lots of time. Participating bloggers will continue to publish for the next 24 hours or more. There’s lots of room and Leonard Cohen should make an appearance!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great, great post, Danica. Strange, cause I was talking about Lou Reed to a few folks recently. I was also reminded yesterday that he would have been 76… anyhoo, I got into Lou Reed much later than I got into Velvet Underground and his Transformer album, but I do turn to his solo stuff more often, though don’t argue with much bigger fans who will say the Velvet Underground is where it’s at.

    Anyhoo, you mentioned two of my favourites in your opening; Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Along with Johnny Cash and (Waylon Jennings), Nelson and Kristofferson would be my picks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, J. The thing about Lou Reed is that his music influenced so many people, I think his name is never too far away in conversations about music — especially if the topic of singers/songwriters comes up. He experimented so some of his output might appeal to some more than others. I do love his work with Velvet Underground as well as their live performances.

      You can’t go wrong with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Would make a great post… just saying. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve definitely had a few conversations that have found their way to Lou Reed – be it solo or with Velvet Underground – and I know that I’ll have more over the next few weeks. He’s always there… be it chatting about a favourite band and how a highlight of their catalogue is a cover of Satellite of Love, or his influence on a favourite artist. Like you say, his influence was / is wide reaching.

        … and yeah, a Nelson, Cash, Kristofferson and Jennings post would be most welcome. I wondered if anyone would write about them 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Top choice for Lou Reed there. Lyrics, expression, freedom, soul, attitude. I also think of his good friend David Bowie, another extraordinary artist. Also lyric-wise I love the storytelling of Kate Bush, Blondie, Jim Morrison, Gil Scott-Heron, Kurt Cobain, Anthony Kiedis – to name just a few.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lou Reed was definitely one of a kind and a musical tour de force. Ah, yes, David Bowie! He’s credited Lou Reed with inspiration/influence and even produced some of his work. The others you mention would make for some great reading… in a post… maybe by The Vintage Toy Advertiser…. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Lou Reed. I think his vocal delivery style is something that others can take issue with, but it really works for me.
    Also, he often spoke for many people in society that would be considered outsiders. A brave man that really didn’t care what anyone thought of him. Thanks for carrying the Lou Reed freak flag.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too. Interesting point about his vocal delivery style and it is an unmistakable sound. When I was listening and selecting songs to feature here, I noticed how much I like his voice. He can hold his own with Metallica, so it’s a distinctive and solid sound. I guess there must be people who don’t like it. I also admire the courage he showed in his songwriting. He took risks with his content at a time when other artists were self-censoring, even if that meant being shunned. I hadn’t realized I was carrying the Lou Reed freak flag, and the thought makes me smile. Thanks. 🙂

      Like

  5. Interesting, from your opening paragraph, Reed might be the one that I’ve warmed up to the least. But that’s the beauty of these posts, reading different perspectives and learning some things I’d missed until now. Who knows, he may end up being my favourite of the lot some day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m thinking he must make an appearance on the 1001 albums list? Have you already reviewed some of his work?

      I’m not too surprised that he doesn’t have universal appeal. Maybe his could be one of those love-grows-slowly kind of sounds? I can’t say since his music has always appealed to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I heard Transformer (didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, it may have been mismanaged expectations) – Berlin’s on the list too.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the one that wins me over, ironically, as I gather it’s not his most listener-friendly!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you share the love. That’s a good point about getting swept up in his personality and music. I could listen to a grocery list sung in his voice, and accompanied by his guitar. His deft handling of words makes me think he’d have been an outstanding author.

      Like

    1. Yes, they’re not for everyone. Glad we’ve got some common ground on the Transformer album.
      Thanks so much for contributing, Rob! Loved your Lennon piece.
      Everyone had fun and I’m happy to know such a great group of bloggers.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank’s Danica.

            The Beatles and everything that we love would not have happened in a World ruled by Nazi Germany.

            It’s a good thing we won that war. 🙂

            I’m slowly reading the other blogs and everyone has thought provoking insights. I just finished 80smetalman’s post and I wondered if glam rock had any to gay liberation and ‘militant’ activists who used gender fuck as part of their resistance.

            This is a rich topic, Danica. I’m glad I signed up for it.

            Liked by 1 person

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