582 Readings

Lou Reed’s 0-bituary: The Prequel

November 8, 2013 4:48 pm Hey, brother! Goddamn, it’s been a minute. Good to hear from you, and seriously, thanks for reading my stuff. If I’m honest, there are parts of the ethos behind that poem that I still don’t quite grasp, so I’m only able to appropriately “explain” pieces of it. One thing that’s been swirling in my atmosphere lately is how the internet (and the ensuing internet culture) has become a place for people to hijack events as platforms for their own opinions (Buzzfeed, Gawker, Upworthy, et al); how we’re progressively a people who care less about the humanity of the event and more about what we have to say about it. I wanted to in some way call attention to this phenomenon by risking what could be seen as an offensive poem involving a man for whom I have a well of respect. This was particularly scary for me because it meant that I’d need to do the very thing I’ve come to so resent—but acknowledge as a reality—and that I don’t trust most of the people who’d come into contact with it to try to think of it as a concept, to dig into what the concept may be. It’s hard to publish something knowing that that underlying concept/theory could easily be perceived as a gimmick…and I can’t even deny that if I came across something like it, I wouldn’t call it one. Maybe it is. I ultimately decided that it was worth the risk to publish it; I’d rather instigate the ire of true fans/thinkers/etc as a means of opening up the conversation than not. I’m hungry for people to talk about what’s happening socioculturally with this rise of social media and immediacy in a way that honors how different we’ve become than even twenty years ago. The trick is, you have to play into the machine to get comments about the machine. Hence: a poem with a bunch of facts about other musicians, which can read as a gimmick, in the hopes of getting a few people to ask, “Why would somebody even bother writing that? What’s the angle?” The idea of celebrity, too, is something that has changed demonstrably in the past decade, and that’s wrapped up in the ease of access to information. But it also means that many—in a more public way—can sidestep the hard work it takes to be an artist worth paying attention to via dumb luck (ie. Rebecca Black). There are more flashes-in-the-pan than ever before; if you’re not churning out accessible hits, people won’t likely put in the time anymore. Lou Reed, in every way, is the opposite. He was a loving iconoclast, a man willing to experiment and think and talk and do, which led to art that you have to engage deeply with, or it won’t land. And what I find both sad and fascinating is that it is exceedingly likely that Lou Reed could not have become Lou Reed if he’d lived now. There’s too much noise, too many voices clamoring to make space for the kind of “deep reading” he demanded. By some backwards logic, this cast him as the perfect locus for the poem; as you pointed out, his titanic influence in the music we listen to is largely invisible to the younger population. Some of that’s inevitable; things fade. But it feels like more than that. I don’t claim to know exactly what it is, and that’s part of why I wanted to write a poem that was simply a collection of facts pertaining to other musicians; just by causing somebody (anybody) to say, “Hey, that’s not true,” I feel like I’ve reinserted him into the conversation; who he was, what he meant, what he means, etc. I’m sure there were better ways to do that, but it’s the one that compelled me all the same. I’m actually planning to push it even further; I’m working on “sequels” that I hope will spark some discussion. Who knows. I hope this all doesn’t sound too esoteric; my life at present allows probably too much free time to think. Again, I can’t thank you enough for reaching out. Know that I’m totally open to criticism, particularly from a fellow fan and former BLGer. Anyway, enough about all that. Tell me about your life these days, man! What are you getting into? Jesse
Posted 05/16/14
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