Lou Reed goes out for a walk

That one day with the girl. Walking in the park, sipping sangria. "You made me forget myself, I thought I was someone else, someone good". Lou Reed wrote the most moving self-confession of all time. He called it Perfect Day.

Rarely has anyone exposed himself as much as the American singer Lou Reed. When he sang about others, he mixed these stories with events from his personal life. Candid, sarcastic or grim. Reed was the first in rockmusic to write about drug addiction, cross-dressing and sadomasochism. But also about that one beautiful day with the girl on his arm.

Lou Reed often drew inspiration from people close to him, like his childhood love Shelly Albin, who is the subject of the now-classic ballads I’ll Be Your Mirror and Pale Blue Eyes. The girl in the park mentioned earlier was Bettye Kronstad, with whom Lou had a serious relationship. They later got married but eventually separated. Their on-again, off-again relationship and her troubled family history served as partial inspiration for his masterpiece Berlin. The inspiration flowed abundantly, and some songs for the album were written in just one night.

Lou Reed was known for being an astute observer and paid close attention to things, sometimes even against his better judgment. When he once walked into a music store and noticed that there were no posters of his new album displayed, he erupted in anger. Subsequently, a staff member from the record company received a verbal tirade over the phone. Precisely at the moment when this person was spending a Sunday afternoon with his family.

Two other incidents indicate, at the very least, Reeds unpredictable personality. Once, he was waiting in line at an ATM and made a fuss about a homeless person seeking shelter from the freezing cold in the bank’s entrance. Perhaps irritated by the bad weather and the waiting, Reed angrily went in to complain to a bank employee about the homeless person’s presence and asked that he be removed immediately. On another occasion, a different side of him was revealed during a signing event. When fans expressed how meaningful his lyrics were to them, he was so moved by their words that he burst into tears after the session.

Lou Reed harbored distrust towards everything and everyone. Subsequently, he became entangled with both himself and his surroundings. Just for fun, listen to his tirades on the live lp Take No Prisoners. Between songs he insults his audience and critics. On this album we clearly hear a man of mood swings, tantrums and paranoid tendencies. The better you get to know his oeuvre, the more the tragedy of Lou Reed, the artist and the human being will get stuck in your head. Just like his best songs.

The life of the songwriter of Perfect Day was a delicate balance between pain and pleasure, between darkness and occasional glimpses of light. According to an impressive biography by Anthony DeCurtis, Lou Reed struggled with loneliness and the fear of being alone. In this book the few true friends he had revealed the other side of the singer – that despite everything, they could always count on his support and hospitality. For instance, on a daily basis he visited the deathbed of a seriously ill Sterling Morrison, the former guitarist of the Velvet Underground.

When Reed started to record an album with Metallica in 2011, hardly anyone knew that he was seriously ill. Two years later, a chronic liver disease proved fatal. Lulu, the outcome of this surprising collaboration, received overwhelmingly negative reviews and hateful reactions worldwide. This is how it began and how it ended, from the notorious debut by the Velvet Underground to Lulu. It suited him well. Parting ways with one of his most controversial albums. A perfect day.

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Music. Movies. Books. Former writer for Dutch magazines Opscene, Heaven, Platenblad. Now Reporters Online. I wrote the book POSTPUNK HEDEN EN VERLEDEN (about British postpunk now and then).