This weekend, we lost an incredible artist, Lou Reed, at the age of 71. Reed’s range of influence from the sixties to today is remarkable, and his work should only grow better with time.Reed’s poetic lyrics were especially influential, and Neil Gaiman sang the praises of Reed’s work to the Guardian after his passing. Gaiman called Reed’s music “the soundtrack to my life…People ask me about my influences, and they expect me to talk about other writers of fiction, so I do. And sometimes, when I can, I put Reed on the list, and nobody ever asks what he’s doing there, which is good because I don’t know how to explain why a songwriter is responsible for so much of the way I view the world…It was all about the stories.”
Funny enough, Gaiman also said that when he needed to write a Sandman story set in hell, he put on Reed’s experimental noise album, Metal Machine Music, which sounds like four sides of a high pitched dentist drill along with broken garbage disposal whirring in tandem. (I defy anyone to listen to all the way through, I usually give up after about forty seconds.) Still, you have to admire any artist who would put something like that out in the world, and not care one iota about the critics or sales.
Gaiman interviewed Reed back in 1991, which was not an easy task considering the guy hated journalists and has always been very moody and prickly to deal with. It took a while to pin Reed down, but he did talk to Gaiman for Relix magazine, and they got along well enough. In fact, they spoke past their allotted time, and Lou was due on stage for a performance before they stopped conversing.
Both Gaiman and Reed agreed that good writing shouldn’t come easy. “You have to really want it,” Reed said. “If you don’t, it’s sloppy. It’s actually offensive – you’d be better off driving a truck.”