Lou Reed has died. He always meant a lot to me, and not just because I met my wife when she was singing backup in a Lou Reed/Velvet Underground cover band in a dive bar in South Bend, Indiana. Here's a poem of mine about Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie that appeared some years ago in Absent magazine. It riffs on the photo of all three, above, and I hope it gets at what the nature of my admiration for all three performers.
Glam Rock: The Poem
The man who was to fall to earth in four years' time
still floated in his cloud of silvered fame. His name
was David Robert Hayward Stenton Jones.
He'd been a Kon-Rad, King Bee, Manish Boy,
a Lower Third. He'd be a thin white duke.
He'd be a Christ, an alien, he'd be a dance club king.
Remembering the self-invented master whose factory
invented selves, he'd play in film the man who
played the soup-can trick on art, he'd play that man (not well).
He'd play the husband of a wife -- she, born Somali,
she, born near Greece. He, born in Bromley, had one
real wife, she, born in Bromley, her girl's-mouth his,
the marriage bed that sweet narcissus mirror
where he'd play out all his parts.
These fragments has he shored against his gender, so.
His name was David Robert
Hayward Stenton Jones. Not David Jones, too close to Davey
of the pre-fab four. He'd change it first to Tom Jones, then again
and then again. But this year he was Ziggy,
this year he played guitar.
That's him on the left. The man who'd fall to earth,
camp in his arm-crook, his long neck's arch. Queer
in his gilded studied falsely vapid stare.
Nervous: glam and poise.
The others? That year he'd save them both.
So New York and yet he's called "L.A."
when he fronts the Eldorados at a dance. He'd been a Jade,
be mother nature's son, but been a Jade who sang
a doo-wop plaintive "Leave Her for Me."
And she was Lisa and she'd say. And she was Stephanie
who'd also say. And she was Jane and Candy too,
or she would be. But he was Delmore Schwartz's
best student, gone to smack and speed and hell,
and he'd come back. He'd play the White House
for two presidents, one ours, and one
the velvet revolutionary who'd call him the Velvet Underground's
own JFK, own wild-side walking Mao or Che.
A three-chord Che? No martyr -- though he'd bottom out.
He'd always be the cracked-id island suburb kid who double-coded
his libido's twists in "CHD," his high school band: the backward-reading acronym
for Dry Hump Club: three boys, a girl, and one guitar.
One guitar lesson's all he'd need, a Carl Perkins 1-4-5 he'd play.
He'd play too much with fire, the kind
his "mashed-faced Negro friend, called Jaw"
sold him, with hepatitis, early on.
He'd play five years with his best band.
He'd leave and play out on his own (not well).
He's on the right, behind his shades, behind the junkie act
in which the junkie hides.
Nervous: cold-edged poise.
Bowie'd helped him make Transformer.
Reed's cracked id made his music well again.
He'd write "China Girl," and he'd sing "Shades"
the second time the thin man fell to earth
to scoop him up. His name was Pop. Had been Osterberg, had
been Prime Mover, had briefly been Iguana,
would then be Pop. Twice called by Stooge, first
psychedelic, later (times where changing) not.
The Idiot who'd Lust for Life. Like the Velvets
but not all cerebellum: all burnout, bastard, broke-ass bum.
A pack of Luckies in his teeth. His arms around them both,
a drunken-sailor Jesus carried, his forward thrust
and their support. His eyes say "yes" his eyes say "now"
his eyes say "no one drives this drunken car." And they're in love.
The attraction? The man called Stardust, star-struck, said
"not Iggy in but Iggy and," and the Stooges drop to second bill,
while Iggy's resurrected (still on smack).
The wonder of attraction? Not his chops --
he tried for ten months, played Chicago blues (not well).
And not his lyrics, his "Mona" or his "TV Eye". Raw Power. For this,
Ziggy'd play his management, get Ig a gig, a big release.
Lou Reed gave his producer: chops, technique, tribute, and joy.
The wonder of attraction?
Not nervous, not with poise, not him.
No one to drive the car.
Perspective's trick's a little imp behind their shoulders:
Tony Defries. He, thinking
"Hammersmith Odeon" thinking "aren't they
fun!" He, thinking, too " but will it sell?"
and then he's smiling,