“One chord is fine. Two is pushing it. Three and you’re into jazz” – Lou Reed

The Velvet Underground’s first album was the touchstone for independent music throughout the decades. But Reed solo in the 70s was equally thrilling and pioneering, his nihilistic proto-punk early 70s look a forerunner to Suicide’s leather-clad industrial bleakness and much synth-pop. The trio of Bowie, Reed, and Iggy Pop in their Berlin period produced some timeless music, while his legendary 1975 album ‘Metal Machine Music’, released to get out of his record contract, predated much power electronics, noise rock, industrial and No Wave music, and remains an influence on those genres. It’s bombast and general ‘screw you all’ nature was a recurring theme, stretching right from the first Velvets album and its shockingly transgressive lyrics and walls of distortion to, some forty-six years later, ‘Lulu’ – a collaboration with Metallica that clocked in at a monstrous 87 minutes, inviting a mixed reception.

But then Reed wouldn’t have it any other way. A curmudgeonly, deliberately contradicatory soul, his music could be heartbreakingly beautiful, from 'Sunday Morning' to the third Velvet Underground album, while he could be sneering and pithy in interviews. When asked what his favourite song from his back catalogue was, he replied “all of them”, and refused to elaborate. A classic interview in Sydney Airport in the early 1970s – now a favourite on YouTube – is Reed at his most amusingly vituperative: monosyllabic and uncommunicative, providing the barest of answers, deliberately baffling the hapless interviewer, he replies to the question, “How would you describe yourself?” with the hilarious retort: “Average”. Whether he truly believed it not, it was the perfect Reed answer. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

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