That unmistakable sound you heard Sunday afternoon was the city’s collective sigh. Lou Reed was dead; the transplanted liver he’d received back in April never quite took.
It would be hard to overstate what Reed meant to New York. To this paper, too, a fact that sank in as we spent hours poring over the yellowed volumes that comprise The Village Voice archives. This paper and its writers have been there to absorb his entire body of work as a solo artist and, prior to that, his time with the Velvet Underground, an “important group” capable of being “pretentious to the point of misery,” as Voice critic (and later senior editor) Richard Goldstein put it in his review of the band’s debut. “This album has some major work behind that erect banana on the cover.”
You’ll find Goldstein’s 1967 piece linked below, along with reviews of the Velvets’ last shows and Lou Reed’s first solo gig (’70 and ’73, respectively). The latter were tapped out on the typewriter of music columnist Richard Nusser, who covered Reed so often the two became close — and then, regrettably, distant, as he tells our Tessa Stuart.
You’ll also find Tom Carson’s lengthy 1989 review of Reed’s seminal solo work, New York, in a piece so spot-on it could have been written in retrospect rather than barely post-release.
Of course, we’ve also included Robert Christgau’s mostly innocuous three-sentence, B+ consumer guide review of Street Hassle. It quite famously inspired such rage in Lou that he took to recording a live rant calling Christgau, among other things, “a toefucker” on his 1978 album Take No Prisoners (listen at bit.ly/HcAWk2).
Whatever you do, don’t misconstrue these as the last words on New York’s rock ‘n’ roll heart. (We can only hope that Reed’s own last words were in keeping with so many of those that came before — which is to say, testy ones.)
— Brian McManus, music editor
Magic and Loss: The Death of Lou Reed by Peter Gerstenzang
The Voice‘s 1967 Review of Velvet Underground’s Debut Album by Richard Goldstein (April 13, 1967)
The Voice‘s 1970 Review of Velvet Underground’s Last Performances by Richard Nusser (July 2, 1970)
The Voice‘s 1973 Review of Lou Reed’s First Solo Performance by Richard Nusser (February 1, 1973)
Good Evening, Mr. Reed: The Voice‘s 1989 Review of Lou Reed’s New York by Tom Carson (January 24, 1989)