Published Oct 28, 2013When Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground passed away over the weekend, the music world lost one of its most fearless innovators. While other aging rock stars slowed down and dutifully rehashed old hits, Reed remained fresh and vital, creating some of his most daring and divisive works later in life.
To pay tribute to this true musical great, we've put together a list of 10 of Reed's most outrageous moments (including albums, songs, concerts and more). These aren't necessarily our favourite of his many endeavours — hell, some of them we find practically unbearable — but these are the things that ensured that he always stood out from the pack. As flawed and frustrating as his experiments could be, they made us even more eager to see what he would do next.
10 Outrageous Moments That Made Us Love Lou Reed:
10. The live set at the Montreal Jazz Festival (2010)
Never one to pander to his audience, Lou Reed neglected to play any proper songs during his set at 2010's Montreal Jazz Festival. Instead, as we explained in our review at the time, the entire performance consisted of improvised free jazz with his wife Laurie Anderson and saxophonist John Zorn. The fans weren't happy and showered him with boos and jeers, but Reed stuck to his guns.
9. The Raven (2003)
One of Reed's many bizarre projects from his later career, 2003's The Raven was an interpretation of the works of Edgar Allen Poe. The album includes rock theatrics, spoken word art pieces, and guest appearances by the likes of David Bowie, Antony Hegarty, Laurie Anderson, Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. There are even redone versions of "Perfect Day" and "The Bed," seemingly just to infuriate the purists.
8. Ostrich guitar (1964)
Even before forming the Velvet Underground, Reed was a bit of an oddball. Case in point: his 1964 novelty single "The Ostrich," which was about a fictional dance craze and was released by his quickly assembled group the Primitives. Reed played the song using a tuning that became known as "ostrich guitar," with every string tuned to the same note. The tuning reemerged during a couple of Velvet Underground songs.
7. Live: Take No Prisoners (1978)
There's nothing unusual about a songwriter releasing a concert album featuring live versions of some of his most famous songs, but leave it to Lou to break the mould. On 1978's bizarre Live: Take No Prisoners, he goes totally off-script by launching into lengthy monologues and rambling asides, allowing his band to jam while he addresses the audience, cracks jokes, and makes some of his best-known material almost unrecognizable. Many critics have said that this double-LP is closer to a comedy album than a proper live disc.
6. Hudson River Wind Meditations (2007) and T'ai chi advocation
Reed is best known for his noisy avant-garde experimentation and his role as a proto-punk pioneer, but he was also a T'ai chi enthusiast and released the relaxing ambient album Hudson River Wind Meditations in 2007 as a soundtrack for meditation. He also provided music and narration to Master Ren Guang-Yi's 2006 instructional DVD Chen Taijiquan: Lao Jia Yi Lu & Straight Sword, and Master Ren performed T'ai chi onstage during Reed's live performances.