Lou Reed studied English literature in college. The reason people study English literature is that they don’t believe anything, anywhere, that they see. They seek to discover the real truth.
What Reed eventually learned was that real truth is rock and roll. “I disliked groups,” I remember him saying, on this one Velvet Underground video documentary. “I disliked school. I disliked authority. I was made for rock and roll.”
One oft-flaunted literary dichotomy in our nation’s higher institutions is the idea of the voice, versus the persona. Basically the voice is the persona stripped down, in literary narration, devoid of what would otherwise be a deliberate attempt at the central hub of the work to EMBODY. Holden Caulfield, for instance, EMBODIES a rapscallion abandon — the readiness to cast off thoughts of his childhood as pointless, an unscrupulousness before tabbing an entire societal entity, the boys’ prep school, as “phony.”
What Reed exhibited as magic in his performing was a seemingly built-in obliviousness of such magnanimity in his very voice itself. It’s as if revolutionary stature of his music were inevitable. What replaced posturing and crowd-pleasing in his muse was a simple love for rock and roll, expounded thunderously in an interview in Jeremy Reed’s Waiting for the Man: “‘If I hadn’t heard rock’n’roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet… Which would have been devastating, to think that everything everywhere was like it was where I came from… Movies didn’t do it for me. TV didn’t do it for me. It was the radio that did it.’”
This is a truth that applies to all vocal music, pop and hip-hop towed along, that less is more in the enterprise of ATTEMPTS at sending a message. Quality of the music is often inversely proportional to the cognisant will of the “artist” to construct himself. J.D. Salinger’s “persona” in Catcher in the Rye works because it’s a persona that is so ubiquitous, that it cuts through what a great number of people have seen as worn old tradition, young boys falling in line and surrendering to curricula, in this great, bright, lethal and breathing nation of ours. In old language, persona can buoy, but in rock and roll, deep down, the most sagacious relayers are the most embryonic.