Friday, April 3, 2020

The Lou Reed album his family hates

Lou Reed : Think It Over

In April of 1980, the newly-married Lou Reed released Growing Up in Public and some members of his family never quite got over it.  Before we get knee deep in the hoopla, as one famous band put it, let's take a moment to consider "Think It Over", one of Sweet Lou's sweetest songs. Written specifically for Sylvia Morales whom he married on Valentine's Day, this is a proposal in song.

 Of course even a Lou Reed love song is going to have a little edge. She responds 

"And we really must watch what we say /
Because when you ask for someone's heart /
You must know that you're smart/ 
Smart enough to care for it."

Sylvia encouraged Lou to clean up his act so the recording of this album, at George Martin's AIR Studios on the island of Montserrat became one big goodbye party to his old ways. On hand there weren't so many drugs as alcohol. Mai tais were the cocktails of choice.

The alcohol inspired the only light hearted song on the album. Had I known about "The Power of Positive Drinking" in college in New Orleans, I would have definitely added it to my radio show playlist:

They say, candy is dandy but liquor makes quipsters /
And I don't like mixers, or sippers or sob sisters

On its most immediate level, the new record is a polished package of bombastic rock and  roll — indeed, probably Reed’s best commercial shot since his 1974 Top Ten anomaly, Sally Can’t Dance

False. It was not a hit. Growing Up was his lowest charting album outside Metal Machine Music and the debut. And then there is the rest of the album, filled with mostly bitter lyrics about his parents. I mean, Lou just got ugly.

The opening track,"How Do You Speak To An Angel", has such a happy, upbeat intro you half expect a muppet to start singing . Instead, it's Lou opening with:

A son who is cursed with a harridan mother 
Or a weak simpering father at best 
Is raised to play out the timeless classical motives 
Of filial love and incest

He's not done. In the next song, "My Old Man", he sings:

I didn't want to be like my father anymore 
I was sick of his bullying 
And having to hide under a desk on the floor 
And when he beat my mother 
It made me so mad I could choke

In "Standing On Ceremony", Lou sings about his dead mother.

Reed would admit his father never beat his mother who was very much alive. But these hostile lyrics --which sounded so autobiographical --upset everyone in his family. After Lou's death in 2013 his sister Merrill would write :

The stories (Lou) related  – of being hit, of being treated like an inanimate object  – seemed total fantasy to me. I must say that I never saw my father raise a hand to anyone, certainly not to us and never to my mother. Nor did I see a lack of love for his son during our childhood. Like his son, my father could be a verbal bully but he was loving and inordinately proud of Lou and bragged about him in later life to anyone who would listen.

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