' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Category: Lou Reed


Ideal voices we have greatly loved,
of those that death has taken, or of those
that are, for us, lost, even as are the dead.

At times we hear them talking in our dreams;
at times in thought they echo through the brain.

And, with the sound of them, awhile recur
sounds from the first poetry of our lives, —
like music, on still nights, far off, that wanes.


Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

Thomas Hardy

Losing a close family member recently (a parent, in fact) led me to think about how rock music in general has dealt with such subjects and with the complex web of grief, regrets, childhood memories and associations that goes with it. For much of my life, music has been a crucial therapeutic tool in crises situations and this has especially true in relation to the cluster of deaths which have occurred within my family circle in the past decade.

My personal view is that (unlike as is the case with classical, country or folk music) rock music – which began as a genre for young people – has tended to shy away from this area. There are some honourable exceptions to this rule which I will get to below. – most of which deal with the deaths of close contemporaries/friends rather than directly with the passing away of a close relative.

The first of these is Lou Reed’s classic cd, Magic and Loss, which I have played repeatedly in the immediate aftermath of the deaths of four family members in recent years. For me, the album is another indication of the acute insight, honesty and bravery, which were the hallmark of Reed’s musical career. A full concert performance of this masterpiece can be found here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c28TXKnCANw).

Like this particular song so much, I want it played at my own funeral:

The next honourable exception I would point to is Robert Forster’s fine album, The Evangelist. Written not long after the sudden and unexpected death of his songwriting partner, Grant McLennan, on it Forster writes in a far more personal and revealing way than he had done during his time with the great Australian band, The Go-Betweens. For me, the most moving song on the record, however, is this one:

More to follow…

Goodbye to 2013 – almost

Will start this post with some good advice for 2014 from Edwyn Collins:
Edwyn Collins, “Low Expectations”:

So, we are nearly at the end of this strange year, a year which I, for one, will be glad to see the back of.

Lost a few great ones this year, although perhaps the most nauseating spectacle I have seen in the past twelve months was the self-regarding and preening behaviour of the collection of political mediocrities who attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Not one of them had an ounce of Mandela’s courage, adherence to principle or dignity…

Among those we lost were Lou Reed:

And George Jones:

And Seamus Heaney:

We also came closing to losing Randy Travis, whose album ‘Influences, Vol. 1: The Man I Am’ showed an artist at the peak of his powers and a singer who came closest to being the true successor to George Jones as the best ‘pure’ country singer:

To round off, would like to thank those who read this blog this year & to hope that 2014 is a good year for you.

To quote, Johnny Rotten, ‘May the Road rise with You”;

And here’s my suggestion for a ‘new’ New Year song to replace the cliched ‘Auld Lang Syne” – Paul Clayton’s great version of ‘Around the Ingals Blazing’:
[Sample Here, its No. 207, for some strange reason} –


Surnames and Placenames: More Songs about Cities, Towns & People – 2

There are so many songs on these topics have decided to add a second post.

So here goes:
1. Randy Travis, ‘What have you got planned tonight, Diana’?

2. Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson, “My Mary”;

3. Wilbert Harrison, ‘Kansas City”:

4. Hoagy Carmichael, ‘Georgia on my Mind”;

5. Van Morrison, ‘Cyprus Avenue”:

6. Lyle Lovett, ‘One Eyed Fiona’:

7. Bing Crosby, ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’:

8. Paul Robeson, ‘Joe Hill”:

9. Phil Ochs, ‘Joe Hill”:

10. Al Green, ‘Belle”;

11. The Kinks, ‘David Watts’:

12. Lou Reed, ‘I Love you, Suzanne”:

Lou Reed

A small tribute to the late great Lou Reed who, in my opinion was a towering figure in rock music – indeed, perhaps only Dylan surpassed him as a lyricist…

When my father died, I listened a great deal to Reed’s great album ‘Magic and Loss’ and plan to have this song played at my own funeral”

Also proposed to my wife with this one:

Lou wrote so many great songs (from the days on ‘Heroin’ and ‘Waiting for the Man’ onwards right up to tracks like the title track ‘Set the Twilight Reeling’ on what was probably his last consistently good album. However, these are probably my personal favourites (both, funnily enough, show Reed’s brilliance as a writer of love songs)

The Velvet Underground, ‘Pale Blue Eyes’:

Lou Reed & John Cale:

Lou was unashamed in writing music designed for grown-ups and which dealt with themes which had never previously been discussed in rock music.