R.I.P.

WHAT LOU REED TAUGHT ME, BY LEGS MCNEIL!

lou A lot of people who’ve read Please Kill Me, the history of punk I co-wrote with Gillian McCain, don’t realize the book begins with a question from Lou: “Rock 'n’ roll is so great, people should start dying for it. You don’t understand. The music gave you back your beat so you could dream. A whole generation running with a Fender bass… The people just have to die for the music. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music? Die for it. Isn’t it pretty? Wouldn’t you die for something pretty?” It seemed like the perfect way to begin a book called Please Kill Me, you know? I thought that would be a worthwhile question to pose, especially since the basis of all philosophies is, “To be or not to be?” I mean, why go on? Is life too shitty to continue? The history of punk is sort of an answer to Lou's classic question. That was the glory of Lou—he showed us just how shitty everything really is. Just listen to “The Kids,” off of Berlin: “The black Air Force Sergeant / Wasn’t the first one…” He’s always pushing me to go further into the depths of hell—to have all the experiences life has to offer, the profound and the profane—before making up my mind about whether to end it all. I’ve always been fascinated with people who've been to psychic places I haven't been, like William S. Burroughs and Norman Mailer, to mention a few. Lou was someone who knew the true secrets of life, and tried to weasel some truth out of them. Lou was the most influential artist of my generation, easy. Yeah, the Beatles and the Stones were more popular, but for honest, human emotions, you can’t beat Lou. I never met a girl in a gin-soaked bar in Yonkers, and she never blew my nose or my mind, y'know what I’m saying? But many times, I didn’t know where I was going. Many times I spent waiting for her to come. Many times—if only, if only, if only… Lou mined the depth and articulation of sheer desperation. Whether I was waiting for my drug dealer, or trying to get off during sex, or some other private weirdness I was too mortified to admit, Lou'd already been there, and he'd come back with a song. Take “Kicks” off one of his first solo albums. “How do you get your kicks for living?” he asks, right before the jarring mix is blasted to 11 and you’re thrown out of complacency....