Lou Reed was my god. His god was Andy Warhol. But just as Lou outgrew Andy, I found Mr Reed no longer handy.
It was the mid-to-late-90s and I was in the business of not having a job. Wandering the town mid-to-late at night, leaving my votive deposits in bar toilets, on footpaths, in gutters and, once, all over this chick I was dancing with. Her fault. Entirely. She was a friend of an old flatmate. We were in Palmerston North, which almost excuses the, erm, outpouring entirely.
We were in The Fat Ladies Arms, which almost allows said offering to stand as the beginning of its own religion. But anyway, she asked me to dance. I shook my head, no. She tugged at my hand. “Come on”, her eyes seemed to say. “I’m about to spew”, my cheeks began to suggest. But, it came to pass that I came to pass the vestiges of a BBQ’d dinner and the remnants of an afternoon spent drinking 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes all down her front.
I was left behind.
The ex-votos of my ex-life are painted in amber-fizzy dreams; are collages of declined-eftpos receipts and letters from the bank; line drawings of an inability to walk a straight line.
And Lou Reed is, partly, to blame. That guy held his lyrical gun to my head and made me buy his albums. The hold that he had allowed me to phone for a student loan time and again, rotten Lou, you knew you had that hold over me. You knew I’d swear I’d give the whole thing up for you. (I nearly did).
Thank god, the view to the VU meant that I would discover John Cale too. And Moe Tucker. And buy their albums and move slightly away from Lou Reed. Always returning – I bought that live acoustic album from 1998. I sat and played it alone in my room, my rugbyhead flatmates figuring me queer.
But I didn’t care. Chief ruggerhead’s main accomplishment of that day, besides making it through another ignorant bigoted stroll towards attaining his commerce degree, was to fry a mouse inside our toaster. That pesky varmint had been evading us for weeks. The mousetrap was one of those golf-putting-return-devices.
The ruggerhead had smeared peanut butter on the sensor, the plan – he said – was foolproof. The mouse would run down the side of the fridge, walk up to where the golf-ball was supposed to land. Stand around and lick at the peanut butter. And then the little thing that flicked out to push the ball back to the practicing golfer would come out and – wham! – “jab that stoopid f**kin mouse in the head. Dead!” It didn’t work. But the toaster did.
I was drinking red wine from the bottle, rolling cigarette butts from the ashtray to re-smoke. Lou was botching his own songs. I was regretting spending the money for the privilege/curse of listening to it (and therefore unable to afford a glass or a fresh pack of smokes) and the flatmate burst in with a mouse jammed – dead – between two bits of toast.
Yes, you did.
Lots of things got fried in that flat. Brains, dreams. Schemes were nightly hatched; they usually revolved around buying 2-dozen Tui and ordering 2 or 3 pizzas. You gotta have goals. We had some times – we were sure they were good. I can see now how bad they were. We were Withnail & I before we’d even seen it. We were The Young Ones even after we’d seen it! We were young and stupid. And now – many years have passed. We only have one excuse these days.
Lou Reed cost himself the best years of his life. I didn’t expect that I’d pay a similar price, my Neolithic notion to drown in his ocean of sound meant handing my leftover beer-money over to that divinity (actually to his less than saintly record company). That was my Anathema.
And I used to think I wanted it back – that time. But I’d only stuff it up again, somehow, some way. I’m best left with only a future to hopefully not spoil, that past was a blast but I wouldn’t do it again if it was your time to waste.
I wouldn’t do it again just to snub Lou Reed.
I wouldn’t do it again to travel back in time and slap that limp-wristed Warhol with a wet fish across face.
I wouldn’t do it again to bow down to some fresh god with some other stale idea.
I wouldn’t do it again because it pays not to – even though I paid to do whatever I shouldn’t have been doing back then.
I wouldn’t do it again.
I wouldn’t do it now. I don’t do it now. I don’t think about it all that much – apart from to laugh. And say “fuggit”.
What else is there to say?
This was originally an essay written for a catalogue of work by the artist Matthew Couper, primarily in response to the image shown here. Please go to his website to take it in the full context.
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