Monday, 2 December 2013

Intermission: Chasing Lou Reed

When Lou Reed died in October I couldn't get stop thinking of him, of him dead, of his music, his face, his being dead, thoughts that kept popping up when I was in the most un-LouReed places.

Initially I imagined it was because he was my first musical hero to die - when I was old enough for death to impact - then perhaps because he meditated and practised tai chi, or because of the absolute rightness I felt when hearing of he and Laurie Anderson being a couple. And while these play a part, I actually think the weight of my response is due to how I encountered him: not through the usual route of my older brothers, but with my best friend.

We were fifteen. It was 1982, Harrogate, Yorkshire, which actually made it 1972. We hung out in town on Saturday afternoons, in charity and second hand book shops, and at the record stall in the market basement, eyeing up boys. There we stopped being 'we'. I wasn't fussed, but my best friend had fallen for this tall boy-man, with deep brown eyes, cliff-edged cheekbones and a sharp haircut. He wore a leather jacket with a face spraypainted in ice blue onto its back.

We stalked the jacket-wearer in the way only teenage girls can. And discovered he worked at the local paper. One of his colleagues was in an amateur dramatics group. We joined the group, learnt his name, that he was a photographer, that his colleague was only a colleague who knew him but clearly wasn't a close friend, that the face on his jacket was of Lou Reed, that he was a huge fan.

We didn't give up. We had enough information to hatch a plan. We researched Lou Reed - it turned out the jacket image was from Transformer - and decided to cut out the middle man, go straight for goal. As I say, we were no longer 'we'. I was going for goal on my friend's behalf. I believed in her dream. Saturday after Saturday we scuttled through town, until we spotted him. With the conviction of all laws of nature and romance being on my side, I strode up, and called out his name. He stopped, turned, looked at me, at my friend some paces away, with a surprised smile, raised eyebrow, and waited. I ploughed on, as I knew I had to, explained I knew his colleague, who'd told me of his amazing Lou Reed collection, and, could I borrow Transformer?

For reasons I've never asked, he agreed. He suggested he leant it to his colleague who'd pass it on to me. The same week we set it on her Decca box record player, nervous at what we'd find, then blown away by this neverbeforeheard explosion of rhythm, playfulness and easy to learn lyrics that we listened to over and over and over. And she probably listened to over and over, after I'd gone home. Having done my job, I stepped out of the chain, and his colleague passed Coney Island Baby to my friend. Berlin was handed over directly.

I'm not sure why, but it still took a party at my house, organised especially, to which his colleague was asked and asked to ask him, for him and my friend to seal her obsession (and his obvious if more 'cool' enthusiasm). They started going out, stayed together beyond my first romance fizzling, and my next, and next, ending up married and having two sons. The last I heard, they were still together.


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