Late in high school I had a secret source of inspiration.
For a year and a half or so my dad and I had a boarder living with us. Richard was a lit major at UVIC. I remember him pointing out the poets Sean Virgo and Susan Musgrave, down at the beach, and trying to explain to me their very complicated relationship, which was he promised me, “very poetical”.
I was 16 and had no idea what he was talking about. In hindsight, I was dealing with my own sexual issues and had no way of getting at them. So who cared which poet slept with which and why.
One thing that Richard brought to our house was his friend Dick, who he claimed was the biggest dope dealer in the city. Hence Dick’s self-financed trips to NYC at the age of 22.
Dick told this 16 year old that my love of Lou Reed’s Transformer was the epitome of good taste. That I arrived at this on my own, just because of the cover of the record, was frankly amazing to him. And god, I needed that at that time of my life.
Richard’s new friends led to my first acid trip (pretty much my last). I realized early I didn’t need complex drugs to think differently. Drugs never took hold with me.
And Dick didn’t really care that I didn’t want to buy his product. He did care about the records I bought. I can see his big head with his long, long hair grinning at me as he went through my latest stack with nothing but praise.
So what did he give me the thumbs up for when I added them to my meagre collection? I don’t remember all the approvals – I know he liked the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead, Neil Young’s Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere and more spectacularly, all things Parliament.
Now, I can’t think of a whiter city than Victoria. Dick, telling me about NYC and the wide world in between confirmed it, introducing me to a pile of records that was so weird and so different from what the average guy in Victoria was buying that I realized I had just discovered a new way of showing off how odd I was.
Screw it has been my motto about music ever since. I like what I like.
Parliament, Funkadelic and now Galatic and all the rest… I am so lame when it comes to creating music but at least when it comes to spending my money I am able to focus on the beats.
Now, what was I saying? Right, Lou Reed.
All the tributes seem to be in. And as they should be they are all over the place: NYC, punk, the Velvets, art, Warhol and the Factory and his now partner Laurie Anderson…
But I am surprised that nobody seems to say anything about one of my favourite Lou Reed songs – a tough song that perfectly captures – not that I should know – seventies New York. It’s a song that plays like a version of “This Love Goes to Building on Fire” with three separate movements, a surprise hidden guest and like the times, lots and lots of drugs.
It’s nasty, dark and a platform for love and redemption. It’s “Street Hassle”. I love this song. I was 21 or 22 when I first heard it. And it means no less to me today than then. (warning: this is so not suitable for very young ears – much street language).