How I met Lou Reed (and his wife Laurie Anderson)...

Imagine this, one evening you are dancing in your friends living room to 'White Light/White Heat,' the next you are face to face with Lou Reed. Well that is exactly what happened to me.
Friday 17th July, I am graduating. My name is called and I make my way onto the stage. I was determined, straight face, thinking elegance, thinking of not falling. Then the unexpected happened. No, I didn't fall. I expected it a little, off one or two, I was thinking Eddie will cheer, Lucy will cheer, but (I didn't look, I kept my eyes forward, focused, not falling over) it was a much louder cheer. Completely not feeble, a powerful heart felt cheer, for little me! So naturally I could not help but grin. Slight at first, then as the cheer grew so did my smile, teeth on show and all. Now I am considering changing the direction of my career... again... to one that involves a cheer after everything I do. Whenever involved in applause for others I cannot help but feel good, despite the claps being for someone else, it is probably something to do with unity, whatever it is it just makes me feel good. I can't remember the last time I was actually applauded, perhaps primary school plays, or I was the prop person for a play in high school - did I get an applause then? It feels good anyway...
So celebrations continue into the evening. There are perhaps 15-20 of us, 5 bottles of champagne, one large bottle of gin, one small bottle of gin, one large bottle of brandy, one small bottle of brandy, one bottle of wine, a few bottles of beer, ginger beer, lemonade, Jake's living room, Lucy Vann's iPod, a dock, and a few spare beds. Now that sounds like a party to me! And it was. Another perfect night spent with beautiful people. By the morning all that is left are eight graduates, slow moving bodies, contemplating breakfast, and one bottle of Champagne. Moet. The expensive one. We start our graduate lives with a champagne breakfast... followed by a Trof breakfast, followed by a slow, sad journey home and recovery.Saturday 18th July. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. I half knew what to expect. Not the norm. It is going to be arty, that I am sure, beyond that, nothing.
The evening was pure poetry in that some of it went completely over my head, most of it was absolutely sublime, a beautiful experience. And that's what it was, an experience. It wasn't oh look there's Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, dancing, singing, cheering. This is the theater have some respect! Yes there is Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, and what they want us to do is listen. Sometimes it was difficult. The second song, I have no idea what it was but it sounded as if it had been made up on the spot and lasted over ten minutes. An experimental throw back to the Velvet Underground, very difficult to comprehend. I tried to listen to it, make sense of it but all I could think was he is too old for this and at that point I decided that I was in for a long night. Then it ended and in it's place was Laurie Anderson's voice, singing out beautifully, "Sometimes I feel so happy" to an unfamiliar tune. I knew instantly and perked up. "Pale Blue Eyes." It just re-emphasizes the point of this evening was about listening. The idea of (most of) Lou Reed's work is to listen. The beauty is not necessarily (although occasionally does lie) in the music but in the words. Music purely drives it, adding to the mood, sometimes adding a catchy riff, but mostly in the background. This is why live Reed songs sound so different to studio Reed songs. Actually I am positive Lou Reed would disagree with this but this is how I listen to his work. The fact that the music can change but the power of the song can still remain strong, well that is down to the words and the manner in which they are sang.
Laurie was absolutely astounding. Thought provoking. She sang humorous, satirical songs ("Only an Expert") and made great use of her famous vocoder. She also told stories. Dark stories with a point (I wanted to scream out, "Oh my God, she is doing something that I want to do! It is possible!" only she was confidently, and brilliantly speaking her words out, and on occasion without the mask of her vocoder. She is a very captivating speaker. And she is very intelligent, I want to be intelligent.) It was before one such tale, the one that I was most inspired by, that I leaned over to Andrew, (I was there with Andrew, not particularly his bag but he does like the velvets, so I dragged him along), "Are you enjoying it?" "It's alright, it's not really my thing though, you know what I'm like." I informed him that he wasn't listening properly, that he had to listen to get it, he informed me that his attention span is that of a goldfish. Listen anyway.

"The more we tell a story, the more we forget it,"

The frailty of memory, told in a beautiful story. I was hooked, she is a new favourite. Unfortunately, we literally had the worst seats in the house. As high up and as far back as you could get. People leaving, toilets, bar, dissatisfied, too arty, unexpected. Floor boards creaked about the old theater, doors slammed directly behind and to the right of us. Very distracting and incredibly annoying. No leg space, sore bottoms, dead foot. A very difficult situation to enjoy yourself in, but I did. The final song, a beautiful but unfamiliar rendition of "I'll Be Your Mirror," one of the most stunning songs ever written. I watch through tear filled eyes. Perfect. The broken sound of Lou Reeds voice supported by the competence of Laurie's. A great sound that you would not expect to work but did throughout the night, and will last for months to come within me. Lou looked up to the audience not once. When he rose and received his cheer his arms were raised but I observed, through my 50p binoculars, that his frown did not lift. No smile cracked. But I know, I know because of the way I felt when I was cheered and applauded, because of the way he lingered on stage after Laurie and Sarth Calhoun (master of all things synthesizer) left the stage. I know because with both arms raised to the air, stood absorbing the ovation, that inside, he had to be smiling. Lou Reed was full of joy! Don't deny it you rotter I know you were!
On the way out we were interviewed by 6 music, our quotes did not appear in the article, which is a little bit of a disappointing, and inconclusive read (perhaps because it has to speak from the majority opinion from those attending instead of personal experience). Then, to avoid the queues at the car park, Andrew and I headed over to the Green Room for a quick drink.
On the way back we noticed a fuss around the stage doors of the Palace. "Oh look at that Andrew, they are waiting for Lou and Laurie." "Do you want to wait?" "Nah," We go into Sainsburys and buy curly chips for supper. When we emerge, there are camera flashes outside the stage doors. He must be out there. We veer closer. He is, there he is, that's Lou Reed. There in person. I could touch him, I could, wait I will, I will touch him. Actually on second thoughts don't touch him, just get his autograph or something... I pull out the crumpled flyer from the evening. My legs begin to shake uncontrollably. I hand him my flyer. He signs it with a blue sharpie, says nothing, hands the flyer to Laurie, she signs it with a pink one. Oh hell this is the only moment I will ever have with Lou, say something. I once read somewhere that when trying to start up a conversation for the first time with someone, it is not important what you say, as long as you say something. Even though I was not looking for an ice breaker here, I knew that something had to be said, regret something rather than nothing. What else could I say? The first thing that popped into my head was a massive geeky "I'm your biggest fan" style, with a slightly unhinged look about me (is that my natural look?), "It is a massive honour to meet both of you, thank you!" and the autographs were handed back to me. Laurie, through a gracious smile, said "Thank you." Lou sort of turned and mumbled something that resembled a grunt. It was truly awesome. Lou Reed grunted at me! Now in retrospect a better cooler thing to say may have been something like, with shoulders thrown back, arms held wide and loose, looking sultry "Hey man, tonight was great, give me a hug." Or at least tonight was amazing, thank you. But as time slips past me, one thing I have learned about myself is that I will always think of a better thing to say when it is too late, and I will end up regretting most of the things that I actually say, and cringe on it for a few days until I realise, the moment has gone and I am the only one dwelling on it. Besides, through the lips that sang White Light/White Heat, I'm Waiting for the Man, Pale Blue Eyes, Perfect Day, Kicks, Street Hassle, Oh so many more, came a grunt, directed at me! Brilliant!
I quickly took a picture of him and Laurie, it was too dark. Turn on the flash, "No Flash!" He spoke, but by then it was to late, the flash had been triggered, the photo had been stored in my camera, and the memory was forever with me. The memory that is to degrade the more that I force myself to remember it in order to tell this story.
(Lou Reed, the cat in the glasses - inside he is smiling!)

They say you should never meet your heroes. That you will only ever be disappointed, but I say this, meet them, but know what to expect. If you want to meet Lou Reed, the best you can ever hope for is a grunt and I got one!

1 comment:

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