Tuesday, October 29, 2013

those were different times

Lou was my goo-roo. There was a period of my life when nearly every situation I came across I asked myself, "What would Lou do?" My 50-plus year old self may not always appreciate those decisions but the younger me knew that was the way I loved living. One night, after we'd driven 30 miles to a theater to see the Rodney Dangerfield flick, Back to School, I serenaded my then-quasi-girlfriend by singing the entire album Transformer. I am not a good singer and she was not happy with either my rendition nor my continuing after she'd told me to stop, but I wasn't listening to her. Lou told me, "keep going, this is a perfect moment." He was right. She left me for Pentacostalism soon after.

I tried for years to write a murder mystery titled Sally Can't Dance about just such a guy as I was in the late 80s that is chockfull of Lou references. In fact, I included a scene at a darkened club in the book just on the off-chance, if it was made into a movie, I could meet Lou onset. As a kid in the 70s growing up a few hours north of The City my occasional forays there had Lou as a soundtrack. (That's not a good video, btw, but it has killer average NY scenes.) Thanks to him I knew just how dangerous and alluring Times Square would be and how I ached to be a part of it. He spoke to something I repressed. The messy Tim Curry movie Times Square gives a good indication what that place was like in the early 80s: a place full of cheesy curtains, smelly leather jackets, teenagers working in strip clubs, garbage on the streets, boozy oldsters breathing over you, businesses that only opened after dark, cigarette and other smoke, where the underground was, whether it was velvet or not, and the hustle was always on. I couldn't hustle nearly as well as Lou--really, no one could--but I could watch others hustle and that's what I loved to do.

So I watched the hustle going on all around me in those years with Lou sing-talking in my head. Those years were the start of my affinity and affection for street kids and respect for their decisions. After all, my decisions were rarely better and were based on, c'mon, the actions of a former junkie! But what a former junkie.

Today I am listening to episodes of New York Shuffle, a music-appreciation show Lou did with Hal Willner that began playing on Sirius XM on Saturday night, ironically the day he died. For what it's worth, one of the points I had in common with Lou and a reason I loved him, was a love for radio: “I’ve always been a fan of eclectic radio, such as FM radio in the past when you could hear stations play widely divergent music, ranging from Rock to Country to Jazz to Opera. I loved the days when DJs who did their own programming set the bar high.” Lou as programmer was as interesting as Lou as musician. His voice is rough and harsh and exactly what a 70 year old with a history of abuse should sounds like. Lou didn't age overnight, he aged like most of the rest of us, one day at a time.

He's dead now and unless there's a rock n roll heaven I'll never have the opportunity to meet him. I think now about Laurie and his ex-wife Sylvia and Rachel and Bowie and his friends and ex-lovers and his ex-friends. They've lost someone who was, as important as he was to me, was more important to them. He wasn't a giant or a saint, he was just a guy who made good music that resonated with an astonishing breadth of people, although I suppose that's what becomes a legend most. Like David Bowie and Neil Young he was someone I listened to and appreciated throughout his career. I have his music and that's got to be enough.

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