'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed'
CHICAGO REVIEW PRESS
Musicians of Lou Reed's stature are often mythologised figures, even while they are still alive. It has only been two years since the New York singer, songwriter, producer, photographer and lyricist died from liver disease, and his career as an artist which lasted from 1964 until his death has been canonised in the annals of rock history as a voice for the disenfranchised and disenchanted to rally behind. With a legacy that encompassed trailblazing rock, ambient, experimental and noise often characterised by deep lyrics and unconventional production Reed found himself equally praised and derided by critics with albums like the noise-heavy 'Metal Machine Music', or the sexuality and gender fluid themes of 'Transformer' showing how truly ahead of the curve he was.
There have already been a few books written about Reed already – such as those by Victor Bockris, Jeremy Reed, and Mick Wall – which have all done well to lay bare his life. However, Aidan Levy's new biography of Lou Reed 'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed' is the first posthumous analysis of his life and dissection of the complexities of the man behind the myth. Delving into a personal life where art, heritage, mental health, and rock 'n' roll excess collide head on, the book tries to illuminate the darkest corners of Reed's remarkable life to present the man, faults and all.
Coming from a journalistic background, the writing style is engaging; empathetic in places, critical in others, but very even handed in it's depiction of both Reed the man and Reed the artist. It avoids the pitfalls of falling into the super-fan fawning that some biographies tend to do, and keeps an authoritative tone and distance that elevates it to the level of such rock bios as 'Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon' by Tony Fletcher, 'The Beatles' by Hunter Davies, 'Hammer of the Gods...' by Stephen Davis, 'I'm Your Man...' by Sylvie Simmons and 'Strange Fascination...' by David Buckley.
Levy draws on original interviews, archive materials, footage and photographs, as well as the stories of Reed's professional, personal and romantic partners to contextualise and add depth to the narrative. The book unveils an often tortured genius complicated by a cruel personality streak and contrary lifestyle that revelled in a urban-bohemianism that on one hand shrouded him in mystique, and on the other only served to sabotage the relationships in his life. From his early life, first forays into music, the formation of the Velvet Underground, his solo work and later years, everything is brought under the microscope and looked at from multiple angles to try and reveal the true story.
'Dirty Blvd. The Life And Music Of Lou Reed' may show Reed to ultimately be as complicated, fallible and fragile as any other human being. But with this all in mind just goes to underline just why Reed's music, legacy and myth has endured in the way that it has. If you are a fan of Reed, or just a fan of a well written rock 'n' roll biography, then 'Dirty Blvd.' is well worth your time.