Lou Reed 1942-2013

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The media have been full of praise for Lou Reed now that he is dead, as is the norm for the hypocritical press. He would have hated it. Lou Reed hated the press in general but especially loathed the British press.

He was loudly and openly scornful of celebrity culture and fame. He saw himself as a rebel poet who sang rather than as a pop singer. One of his last public gigs was at Occupy in New York reciting a poem against Wall Street.

Lou Reed was a product of the radical culture of New York of the 1960s and 1970s. In particular he was at the centre of the cultural hothouse that was The Factory - the art/film/music/happening centre set up by Andy Warhol on 10th Street in New York at a time when it was far from the upmarket area that it is today.

Then the streets south of Houston (SoHo) were full of empty warehouses and burnt out buildings. Few of the current inhabitants would have ever dreamt of venturing into this "dangerous" area of drug addicts, drag queens, prostitutes and rent boys, drop outs and bohemian artists.

It was also an area inhabited by a range of radical artists, anti-establishment drop outs, and the like. Everyone seemed to live next door to each other (John Cage, Yoko Ono, Jack Smith, Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith et al) and the various branches of art merged and influenced each other.

The Factory was one centre of all this. The idea was to create a place that would incorporate all art, and to subvert the market and the establishment - a place of poetry, painting, printing, psychedelic light shows, film making, plays, happenings, drug taking and sexual radicalism. Before he was shot and wounded by one of his followers, Andy Warhol, who financed it all, set up a series of events centred on local drag queens and rent boys. Warhol was openly gay. The Stonewall riot in 1969 led by drag queens, which gave birth to the modern Gay Liberation movement, was just round the corner.

Lou Reed was part and parcel of this, and the Velvet Underground provided the soundtrack to this avant-garde world. You can hear it in the words and the blending of experimental music from the "classical" with rock and psychedelic pop.

And Lou Reed stayed loyal to this rebellion against the normal. His later records such as Transformer or Berlin look back to this rebellious period or to a similar scene in Berlin in the 1980s.

When Warhol moved on to embrace celebrities and the rich and famously Lou Reed fell out with him - a break Warhol never understood. Cynical and bitter towards the establishment, Lou Reed remained the "Rebel Rebel" of David Bowie's homage to him.