In 1983 I walked into a little record store in Salt Lake City, where I was marooned for nearly three very unpleasant years in high school. Not only was SLC a Mormon town, then, but it was also one of the most allergic to anything but mainstream culture--a more enforced by Mormons and non-Mormons alike. I recall the day was sunny and the store suffused with light. My friend Steve and I thumbed through the stacks looking for something new until we came across a white album with the single image of a garish banana. The art was a double-entendre I would only later appreciate. Intrigued, we asks the bushy-bearded clerk what the story was. His words are lost to the ether, but he encouraged us to drop the five bucks and listen.
Steve and I took it home and cued up the first track. We chose side two because the first song, "Heroin," sounded cool. As the first notes of Lou Reed's languid guitar trickled out, our minds grew three sizes. In a place as dark and repressed as 1980s Salt Lake City, stories of New York's marginal folk were like a beacon. Yes, better places exist. Places alluring not so much because white junkies trawled black neighborhoods, but because there were artists writing about them and making sounds so outré they may not have been music. Get through high school, that record told me, and the world is yours.
Lou Reed died yesterday, as all old rockers must. His ouvre was full of meditations on death (he and his Velvet Underground partner, John Cale, made an obituary record for the artist of that obscene banana, Andy Warhol.) I don't suppose he was surprised when death came. Today I'm off to New England to check out cideries for a new, still-must-remain-undiscussed, project I'm working on. (Blogging will be light at best.) If any artist can be said to have smashed into to trajectory of my life to send it spinning off into new directions, it was Lou (and Cale). Would I be in this airport without his intervention? Who can say. It's nice to think so, though, isn't it?
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