Lunch Drawing 25: Kid Apollo (Drawing for Lou Reed)

Lunch Drawing #25 Kid Apollo (Drawing for Lou Reed)

Lou Reed’s 1992 masterpiece, “Magic and Loss” is informed by the deaths of two friends; the great American songwriter, Doc Pomus, and Warhol factory regular Rotten Rita.

Pomus, of course, is one of the honored presences in the rock and roll canon who wrote a slew of hits as part of the Brill Building creative brain-trust; a generation of songwriters that included Stoller and Leiber, as well as Gerry Goffin, Phil Spector, and Carole King. Pomus wrote the lovely and longing “This Magic Moment,” which Lou later covered for the soundtrack of a rather forgettable film. Lou’s version is elegiac and heartfelt, concluding a with a coda for his departed friend at the tail end of the song, comprised of the title of another Pomus chestnut,”Save the last dance for me, Babe.”

Lou’s rendering of this song is almost as quiet and intimate as a prayer. Only Mike Rathke’s thundering guitar hints at the howling absence of Doc himself.

Pomus was an American treasure who wrote hits for a great many singers and bands throughout his long career. “Sweets for my Sweet,” “Turn me Loose,” and “Little Sister” were all Pomus songs, as well as “Lonely Avenue,” the song that came to define Ray Charles in the late ’50s, and has been covered by everyone from Los Lobos to Van Morrison. The influence of the former Jerome Solon Felder is incalculable.

Doc started out as a blues singer, very often being the only white guy in the clubs. As a polio victim, who walked with the aid of crutches and as well as being Jewish, Doc felt the underdog kinship with African American musicians and very often, he explained his songs by saying he wrote them for “…those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain or not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed.”

Doc’s songs remind me of nothing so much as the Edward Hopper painting, “Nighthawks,” painted a full generation before rock and roll–with their lonely, longing hues of the night ending with nobody to hug or a hand to hold.

Songs of love and loss had immense purchase on the work of Lou Reed. Those departed, and those estranged,  haunt almost every song in Lou’s catalogue. From “The Sword of Damocles” to “The Halloween Parade” to “The Finish Line,” Lou informs us there are no proportions in grief and loss; only shadow, only memory, and only the songs.

Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 2:03 am  Comments (1)  

Lunch Drawing #24 Candy Came From Out On The Island In “Walk on the Wild Side,” several of Andy Warhol’s “Superstars” converge from their various former lives to New York City–a place where they can be who they were meant to be, where they can shed their former mundane or suffocating identities and transform. A place of freedom. For those from outside of this milieu, it is a hard thought to square with the New York City of 1972. Crime-ridden, virtually bankrupt, and radiant with a dangerous kind of glamour, New York didn’t seem to be a place where one could be free. All of the movies and entertainment of this era, from the “Godfather” and “The French Connection,” to small films like “Panic in Needle Park,” rendered a place in ruins and lengthening shadows. Little did the Aamerica west of the Hudson know, that The Factory, Warhol’s studio, would be a propulsive engine of cultural change from Lou and the Velvets to Interview Magazine and the seminal beginnings of punk rock, glam rock, and the explosion of art and music in the East Village. Between Warhol and Lou, a lot happened, and a great many artists, musicians and writers lost and found their place in the culture they created. The “Superstars” starred in Warhol’s movies and many weren’t really actors. Warhol revered them as entities and, in some sad cases, ciphers. All of them though, were thoroughly seduced by the thought of fame, -even when staring blankly into the lens of Warhol’s Dream Machine.

Published in: on November 23, 2013 at 1:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Lunch Drawing 23: Lady Eyebrows

Lunch Drawing 23: Lady Eyebrows

One night in Manhattan, my friend, Bob Chase, and I met up with Lou Reed to attend a benefit for Prospect 1, the first-ever New Orleans Biennial. It was at the Core Club, a kind of fancy-schmancy, arts-positive club that had graciously agreed to host the event. While standing outside, Lou told us of how “Walk on the Wild Side” came into being. It was initially written for a musical based on Nelson Algren’s novel of the same name. When the financing failed to materialize, Lou switched out Algren’s New Orleans demimonde for Warhol’s Factory denizens and achieved the only top 40 hit of his career.

Never before had Top 40 radio had a song that spoke so clearly to the “other”–junkies, gay people, and other square pegs who existed in the margins of American life.

The first time I heard it I was in seventh grade, wearing black pants, a white shirt and a red tie (the Catholic school uniform of St Pius X)and I remember thinking that I didn’t know completely what this song was about, but I knew it had something to do with me.

It was one of those moments that set me free and let me know that there was another side.

It probably isn’t Lou’s best song, or even his best-known song, but it is the one that reached into the white-bread heart of America and announced that the freaks and misfits and others who chose a life outside of the lines weren’t going anywhere to hide any more, and this was not a small thing. Lou broke down the door, and the rest of us got to walk through it.

Published in: on November 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Lunch Drawing #22: ‘Looking for Soul Food (Drawing for Lou Reed)

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There is a very expensive steakhouse in Brooklyn called Peter Luger’s that, for over a hundred years, has served what’s thought to be the best steak in New York, , ,or the country for that matter.  And when you eat their beef, it is hard to argue with this appraisal. It melts in your mouth. It is perfectly seasoned and cooked at a very high temperature in butter. The Luger’s steak is delicious. No argument. The service leaves a lotto be desired, though; snotty old Kraut waiters, a long wait even when you have a reservation, and the light so bright, you’d think you were in an operating room.

For many of the years that I knew Lou Reed, this was his favorite steak. . .and we ate a lot of it. We’d often go with a big group; five or six people at least. Luger’s was less likely to fuck you around if it was a big table. Over the years, Lou brought Salman Rushdie, Hal Wilner,the musical genius, Laurie Anderson and a host of dudes from his Tai-Chi classes, including the instructor.

I brought my friends Nick Bubash, Mickey Cartin,  Joe Amrhein, and various other miscreants. Our crowds mixed well and during the dinner we’d talk about art, music, politics, and exchange the latest dirty jokes. Salman Rushdie has a deep cache of very funny dirty jokes. I was always amazed that he was so funny. For all that he had been through, (it isn’t everyone who has the leader of a country put a price on his head) he was and is funnier than hell. It was also interesting to hear him discuss books and authors.  At one dinner, he explained a petty pissing match between V.S. Naipaul and Paul Theroux who’d
written a scathing book about their friendship and its undoing. Salman explained that the notoriously thin-skinned Theroux was pissed that Naipaul no longer wanted to be friends and wrote a book about it. It was nice to hear that great writers were just as petty and vindictive and juvenile as the rest of us.

Often, toward the end of the meal, there would be a pile of steak bones that still had a lot of meat on them. Lou and I would chew the meat off of the bones. we’d just flat-ass pick up the bones and start gnawing on them like a couple of terriers. The great thing was Lou made noise while he gnawed, not unlike a growl, and it was funnier than hell. What was great was that after the notoriously aloof service by starch-shirted elderly Huns, there were a couple of guys loudly chewing on bones, and didn’t give a fuck who heard it–and one of them was Lou Reed. What were they going to say?

“Hey, Lou Reed! Stop chewing on that bone of the steak you just paid for.”

I can tell you how THAT would have gone.

Later on, Lou became a fan of Wolfgang’s, which was opened by a bunch that used to work at Luger’s, the late, great West 63rd Street Steakhouse across from Lincoln Center or, in a pinch, the grand old war horse of Manhattan steakhouses, The Homestead.

There is something about steak to kids who were raised working-class. They enjoy it more. It is always a treat, even if you can eat it every night.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m drawing the song, “Walk on the Wild Side.” It is the first song of Lou’s I ever heard and, at the time,it spoke to me in a way I didn’t quite understand; like a dog whistle for people who knew they were going to be other.

It is the only way I can think of to honor my friend.

Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 12:32 am  Comments (1)  
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Lunch Drawing 21: Kid Hustle…..(Wal​k on the Wild Side, ​for Lou Reed)​

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In 1972, a single was released that was unlike anything in the history of AM Radio. Lou Reed’s, Walk on the Wild Side spoke of transgression, otherness and addiction. It also casually mentioned “giving head,” which, for some reason, went over the heads of the notorious radio censors of the day. It was a howl from the other side,a bulletin to the square America that there were whole other cultures walking among them and damn-near invisible.

The New York of this song was grimy and dangerous, the same New York that, two years later, Martin Scorsese would mine for the shattering Taxi Driver. New York City was dangerous, subversive, and the last thing we had resembling Bohemia. It was the New York of Warhol’s Factory where, of course, The Velvet Underground was nurtured and unleashed on the world. And right at the forefront of all of it was Lou Reed.

He’d studied philosophy at Syracuse and was a student of the great American poet, Delmore Schwartz. In the whole time I knew Lou, he was never not reading poetry. He loved haiku, Rilke, Artaud, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Valery. You name it, Lou read it. He was also fascinated by the city of New York, kind of the same way I am by Chicago, and I loved when he told me stories of the city in the early ’70s and late ’60s and the tidal, cultural changes that he, himself, helped foster into being. . .the places like Max’s Kansas City, CBGB–the emergence of punk and the roiling and whirling energies that brought it all to bear. He was witness to all of it.

New York was a dangerous place. Forty-Second Street before the invasion of the Disney crowd, was lurid and grim and shiny whore candy for blocks at a time. One of those place that was scary even in broad daylight. And Lou sang of its people in terse and unsparing lyrics. “Walk on the Wild Side” was the beginning of an enormous cultural shift in a bankrupt city of hunger.

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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