Perfect Sound Forever

LOU REED TRIBUTE


Men Of Good Fortune – The World Keeps Spinning
by Wade T Oberlin
(December 2013)


I was stirred awake by a text message around 4:34 Monday morning. This is in Fussa, Japan. The text only read "I'm sorry for your loss." Confused and wide awake with no real information, I went to Facebook to check my feed, fearing a family member had passed away, and the immediate first post I read was from one of my old friends who currently lives in New York City. The post was a condolence for Lou Reed.

I starred at my phone for a good long minute, glad that no family member or friend was gone but immediately thinking how I never believed Lou Reed would pass away. It just never crossed my mind.

I decided to start my day early, since the vague text message had scared me awake anyway, and once I came out of my small shock I hopped out of bed and messed around my vinyl in the dark. The one Lou Reed solo album I own is a copy of Berlin. I found it quickly and put it on my turntable.

I have no current neighbor and I let it blast in the dark. I returned to my bed and scrolled though my Facebook wall. People were well into their day back in the States and many photos and videos of and for Lou flooded my feed, more than I expected.

Eventually I set my phone down and focused on the album. My eyes had grown used to the dark and I stared at the ceiling, taking in "Lady Day" and "Men of Good Fortune." I remembered the first time I heard "Men of Good Fortune." It was on The Johnny Rotten Capital Radio Show from 1977, a radio broadcast showing off Lydon's favorite tracks. He played no early Velvet material, but he played tracks by members Cale, Nico, Reed. That show is what made me pick up Berlin in the first place.

"Men of good fortune… often wish, that they could die… While men of poor beginnings… want what they have, and to get it they'll die… All those great things, that life has to give…they wanna have, money and live… But me… I just don't care at all..."
A man in-between, a man ambivalent. A man can live until 71 and who knows how often and flippant that opinion could have changed in Reed's own life. Me, I care a bit. I just hadn't cared until it was gone.




I work at a Top 40 radio station, providing news and entertainment to American troops overseas. Early on in my tenure, I was able to create my own playlists for our Saturday show, the Retro Café. I used this to my full advantage, playing deep cuts and B-discs that could never make it to our regular programming. The show was eventually nixed, but each time it was my duty to DJ on Saturday, I let listeners have the proverbial shit. Tracks by Reed, Iggy, Count Five, a whole Bangs trip.

I knew Reed's passing was going to be a hot topic at work. If it wasn't by the time I got there, I was going to make it that way. I had finished both sides of Berlin, and I was satisfied that I was able to complete that tragic rock opera in whole as a pre-work ritual. I showered, brushed, got into uniform and drove to work leisurely with White Light/White Heat on high.

Arriving at the station, I greeted each and everyone with the news of Reed's death. Most people knew, but only because we receive a news feed on-air from the Associated Press throughout the building (AP Radio News plays at the top of every hour, and our building is wired with speakers throughout). Most of my co-workers were indifferent, or had no idea who the man was, which saddened me though it's what I expected. I logged into my work computer, checked my Facebook feed a bit more and checked some emails.

Our station receives bits, material to talk about on-air for filler between segments, that we receive each day through Outlook. News of Reed's death made it to "The Daily Bullsheet"…

ROCKER LOU REED DIES

Legendary rocker Lou Reed passed away Sunday at the age of 71. A cause of death has not been released, although he underwent a liver transplant in May. Reed is best known for his work in the late sixties with his influential rock band The Velvet Underground, as well as his hit solo single "Walk on the Wild Side." His most recent release Lulu, a collaboration with Metallica, came out in 2007. He is survived by his wife, musician Laurie Anderson, who he married in 2008.

…and though that's the one piece of information that I really wanted to read out of the daily email I would typically ignore, I was also drawn to…
KIM AND KANYE WILL HAVE A PRENUP

(CHRIS) BROWN ARRESTED FOR FELONY ASSAULT

I read these bits while the Miley Cyrus song "Wrecking Ball" played in the background through our office on-air speaker. You know, I really do love my job. I love the opportunity and training I get from it. But listening to Miley while reading celeb gossip after the death of someone I see as an artist... It really broke down my mood. But that's the way of the world. Things don't just stop, the world keeps spinning. One co-worker thankfully vocalized this point for me so I didn't have to.

I continued to read a similar email, this from "Daily Show Prep Music News" and it made my jaw drop.

Metallica has announced it will perform in Antarctica for the first time, in a rare gig that won't be amplified. "After over 30 years as a band, we have been unbelievably fortunate to visit just about every corner of the earth ... except for one," the US group said on its website Thursday. "That is all about to change as we are set travel to Antarctica, the only continent that Metallica has never played on until now!!" The concert will take place on December 8 near the heliport and inside a dome on Argentina's Carlini base. What also sets this gig apart is that "the show will be transmitted to the audience via headphones with no amplification ... a real first for us!" To attend, fans have to take part in a contest organized by Coca-Cola Zero that will be launched in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica and Mexico later this month. According to Rolling Stone, the Metallica concert will only be the second to be staged on Antarctica. The first was in 2007 by the indie rock group Nunatak consisting of climate change researchers, it reported on its website.
Not only is this incredible on so many different levels but it really just made me think of the Lulu album of the not-so-recent past, the collaborative effort between the Metallica and Reed. The album I never made it all the way through. Lou is gone, and Metallica are off to Antarctica.




The rest of the day was business as usual, but I made a point of having my 21 year old co-worker listen to "Walk On The Wild Side" since it was in our stations media library. I don't really think it took.

I finished the rest of White Light/White Heat, minus "Sister Ray," on the drive home. I listened to "Sister Ray" in full on my late afternoon walk.

I told my local Japanese friends about Reed's death, and they were in much more shock than anyone else I know. I told them about Metallica getting ready to play in Antarctica and there was even more surprise.

By the time I had returned to my bed, I still had shed no tears for Lou. I had grief. A small lump in my throat. I remembered that I had a superior when I was a Sailor out to sea, a Navy Chief that claimed he had seen Lou Reed perform a brief impromptu gig in a bar. It was a great story. I remembered an old friend that would get blitzed and blast Venus In Furs on repeat. I had thought it was annoying (the act, not the song). I remembered reading the awesome Lester Bangs essays on the man. And his lasting impressions...

Lou Reed... He drifts behind so much material that I hold dear. His influence is a fact. It's osmosis. I'm thankful he led a full and worthwhile life and that even though he's gone, he didn't go out as a rock and roll casualty. I'll take Lulu over a young rockers death trip, any day. The music was for Lou, himself, and he "doesn't care at all". We are fortunate to have it. R.I.P.


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