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Lou Reed led the revolution in rock music that would grow into such different forms as glam and punk rock, and introduced such taboo subjects as drugs and aberrant sexuality into the American pop song. This first full biography of the chameleon-like figure who has continually revised and reinvented himself probes beneath the myths and contradictions of Reed's life to set t Lou Reed led the revolution in rock music that would grow into such different forms as glam and punk rock, and introduced such taboo subjects as drugs and aberrant sexuality into the American pop song. This first full biography of the chameleon-like figure who has continually revised and reinvented himself probes beneath the myths and contradictions of Reed's life to set the record straight. Photos.


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Lou Reed led the revolution in rock music that would grow into such different forms as glam and punk rock, and introduced such taboo subjects as drugs and aberrant sexuality into the American pop song. This first full biography of the chameleon-like figure who has continually revised and reinvented himself probes beneath the myths and contradictions of Reed's life to set t Lou Reed led the revolution in rock music that would grow into such different forms as glam and punk rock, and introduced such taboo subjects as drugs and aberrant sexuality into the American pop song. This first full biography of the chameleon-like figure who has continually revised and reinvented himself probes beneath the myths and contradictions of Reed's life to set the record straight. Photos.

30 review for Lou Reed: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    154th book of 2020. I will add to this in the coming days, for there is a lot to cover. Firstly, Bockris is a terrible writer and if I wasn’t very interested in Lou Reed, I would have dropped this before the halfway point. Thankfully, a large portion of this book is comprised from direct quotes from band members and critics and magazines and interviews so the amount of writing from Bockris himself is small in comparison. Though, of course, there is still a lot of his writing, telling the “story” 154th book of 2020. I will add to this in the coming days, for there is a lot to cover. Firstly, Bockris is a terrible writer and if I wasn’t very interested in Lou Reed, I would have dropped this before the halfway point. Thankfully, a large portion of this book is comprised from direct quotes from band members and critics and magazines and interviews so the amount of writing from Bockris himself is small in comparison. Though, of course, there is still a lot of his writing, telling the “story” of Lou’s life, and supplementing it with quotes where necessary. I can already tell you there are better books on Lou, so frankly, don’t bother reading this; instead, here is all the best bits of information within to save you extracting it via torture. Bockris writes the biography in chronological order, mostly. It begins with Lewis as a young boy, his family, his home life, and most importantly, the electrotherapy he received. The biography opens with: Any biography of Lou Reed must necessarily begin in the summer of his seventeenth year, 1959, with the most traumatic even of his life—the series of twenty-four electroshock treatments administered to him at Creedmore State Hospital in Queens Village, Long Island, on the East Coast of the United States. From there Bockris takes us through his family life and school life, which was partly interesting, but really I was waiting for him to get to Syracuse. Once through his early life of mostly alienation (Bockris suggests it was self-inflicted alienation) he gets to University and meets Sterling Morrison and John Cale, and eventually Moe Tucker too, who would form the first line-up of The Velvet Underground. Many people consider the first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, as the best. It is certainly now considered one of the most influential albums ever made, and rightly so. I think it pretty much is the greatest VU album. There was a good quote in here about the album and about the later, the “last” VU album, Loaded: paraphrased, that the latter was a commercial success but the former was certainly the album that broke all the boundaries. I think this is mostly true; Loaded is a great album but nowhere near as “ground-breaking” as their first. The line-up with John Cale was better, perhaps, and Lou made a mistake in firing him. But, if there is anything, Bockris mentions a lot in this biography, is how Lou likes to get people close to him and then cut them out. I’ll add more to this in the coming days with quotes. There is a lot of material to sift through and a lot of stuff to cut out so this review doesn’t end up as big as the biography itself. Later I’ll touch more on Lou’s personality as represented by Bockris, partly, and the quotes from friends etc.: the drug use, the physical violence towards women and the song-writing. I was more interested in the stuff with the Velvets, but the solo career stuff was still interesting, meeting Bowie and even writers like William S. Burroughs and Kurt Vonnegut.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Count No Count

    Victor Bockris is a fun biographer because he hates most of his subjects.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roz Milner

    As someone who's a big fan of Lou and his music but also someone with an idea of how self-destructive and awful a person he could be, I had a curious reaction to Victor Bockris' mid-90s biography of Reed. Just a bare scraping of Reed's life is bound to sound interesting. He chummed with people like Delmore Schwartz, Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs, played with musicians as diverse as Don Cherry, David Bowie and John Cale and was behind maybe a half-dozen amazing albums. He struggled with boo As someone who's a big fan of Lou and his music but also someone with an idea of how self-destructive and awful a person he could be, I had a curious reaction to Victor Bockris' mid-90s biography of Reed. Just a bare scraping of Reed's life is bound to sound interesting. He chummed with people like Delmore Schwartz, Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs, played with musicians as diverse as Don Cherry, David Bowie and John Cale and was behind maybe a half-dozen amazing albums. He struggled with booze, drugs and a complicated attitude towards sexuality and often turned his personal experiences into great, immediate music. But I suppose the question is: how much does that tell us about the man and why he made the work he did? For example, just about anyone who's bothered to read the lyrics to a song like "Walk on the Wild Side" knows what the song is generally about. And anyone who bothers to look it up can find it was a hit for Lou, too. So the question that lingers about that song, for example, is why it was so successful. How did Reed come to write it, was it based on any specifics and what made the song so compelling. And for that specific example, Bockris deftly avoids breaking down the song in any detail. It was based on people Reed knew (Warhol superstars, mostly) and there were some neat studio tricks (doubling the bass line with both an electric and an acoustic bass), but that’s about it. For a book that's supposedly the definitive look at Reed, Transformer is interested more in lurid, damning tales. The book is less a look at the man and his music and more one filled with a lot of supposition and rumour, occasionally interrupted by a quote from a record review. Throughout Transformer, Bockris quotes anonymous sources: “commented one friend,” “as an observer pointed out,” and so forth. Most of the book’s most damning episodes – mostly him feuding with Robert Quine, John Cale or other musicians – rely on these stories. Other times, when people speak on the record, it’s hard not to get the feeling it wasn’t to Bockris. Nowhere in his notes does he mention interviewing Reed, not to mention other heavily quoted figures like Cale, Nico or Shelly Albin. One quote, for example, came from an interview with Bambi Magazine; Bockris presents it as a story Reed told to photographer Mick Rock. With a loose presentation like that, I can’t shake feeling I’m reading a tabloid version of Reed’s life, presented for maximum drama and excess. Back in my journalism school days, we were taught to avoid anonymous sources, especially when they had the meat of the story. There are a variety of reasons, but accountability is the big one. How are readers supposed to trust people scared to go on the record? In other words, if everyone feels so strongly about Reed’s transgressions, about his concealed gay life, about his sanctimonious attitude towards his bands, friends and loved ones, why not speak on the record? Are you afraid a guy you hate will never hire you again? The Reed that emerges in Bockris’ pages is a simple, sad man who only seems complex and interesting. He has a paranoid, possessive attitude towards women and abuses them with a cruelty that’s stunning in it’s casualness: “She’d be very boring. That’s why he always ended up hitting her. He would never hit anyone who’d hit back,” says yet another anonymous source. In Bockris' account, Reed openly sleeps with both sexes, yet insists he’s straight, even as he courts a gay audience. And the drugs! He takes so much speed and drinks so much booze that he looks like a corpse, all because he needs to tone down his mind, or some other junkie excuse. He wrote a handful of great songs – but could only do so when surrounded by talented musicians who brought him up to their level: Quine, Cale or Mick Ronson. And eventually Reed would grow jealous and kick them out of his circle. Okay, so the question becomes one of actual talent: was Reed really all that talented? Or just someone smart enough to surround himself with talented people? When left to his own devices, Bockris’ book is ambivalent on the results: he calls Coney Island Baby “one of (Reed’s) finer solo albums” before changing the subject and Magic and Loss is “the kind of album people owned but rarely played.” More often, he lets other writers do the judging, quoting from reviews by Robert Christgau, Ellen Willis, Lester Bangs, and David Fricke, among others. He’s hard on Reed the live musician, too. His Transformer-era Tots band are “pedestrian musicians,” while Rock and Roll Animal-era Reed has “jerky, stumbling movements… combined with a catalog of rock clichés,” and even 90s Reed “lacked both passion and spontaneity.” While I’m on the topic of criticism, a few comments on Bockris’ prose. First, he tends to repeat himself, sometimes quoting the same quotes in two separate sections. Other times, his sources contradict themselves: just pages after writing that Reed came out in the 70s, someone says “Lou’s ultimately straight.” But it never feels like a complicated picture, but more like a narrow view of sexuality: you’re one or the other, with limited shades between. His calling transgender women like Rachel “drag queens” jibes with this, too. Indeed, his treatment to women is stunning. He never drops the hammer on Reed’s abuse towards women, both verbal and physical. And sometimes he drops insults on them too, like when he called Patti Smith a dog of a rock writer. Ideally, a biography should do two things. It should tell you the life of it’s subject and then explain why that life is distinct from those around it. A shining example is Richard Ellman’s biography James Joyce: it doesn’t just tell you about Joyce’s life, but explains where his stories came from, and how he repurposed them for his novels, especially for Finnegan’s Wake, a book as impenetrable as it is autobiographical. It explains not just that Joyce was a genius, but what made him one. On those levels, Transformer is disappointing. It explains Reed’s life (up to the mid 90s, when it was first published), but does so in a lurid, tabloidish way that lends doubt to his findings. And when trying to explain what made Reed’s music so important, especially compared to that of fellow musicians like John Cale, David Bowie or others, Bockris’ book comes away empty, more like a loose collection of idle gossip and speculation. Maybe the new edition coming out later this year rectifies this, but I doubt it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Lennon

    So much of the magic behind music lies in the trajectory of a musician's life and the person inside. Each time I read a biography, like this one, of the greats, I am awed by how enormously important music can emerge from a life wrought with conflicts and obstacles, both self-imposed and situational. This biography of Lou Reed starts with him, as a teenager, headed for electroshock therapy to "cure" him of behaviors his parents found disturbing and portentous. The book proceeds with an in depth lo So much of the magic behind music lies in the trajectory of a musician's life and the person inside. Each time I read a biography, like this one, of the greats, I am awed by how enormously important music can emerge from a life wrought with conflicts and obstacles, both self-imposed and situational. This biography of Lou Reed starts with him, as a teenager, headed for electroshock therapy to "cure" him of behaviors his parents found disturbing and portentous. The book proceeds with an in depth look at Reed's passages through a life that for many was laden with shocking-ness. Whether or not you know Reed's music doesn't really matter. What you'll see here is an unfiltered expose on the times when Lou was becoming Reed the Icon, times that other icons grew up in like Dylan and The Stones. But for Reed, his engagement in, understanding of, appreciation for, and love for the people who lived (and survived...some anyway) in the underbelly of society, fueled his music, perhaps better than his self-awareness. So much of the accounts here are raw. So much is powerful. So much presents a confounding and often contradictory nature in Reed. It's about the impact of Reed's parents, his view of his sexuality, his drug use and attitudes about it, his treatment of women, his ability to manipulate, his love-hate relationships among friends and fellow musicians, and the impact of his mentors like Andy Warhol. To say this book is a treasure trove of information and insights would be an understatement. For those who are fascinated by the minds of the creative greats, this is a great read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Al

    I have been on a Velvet Underground and a Jack Kerouac/William S Burroughs kick here lately. It sorts of hits home on the point that creative people are not necessarily the people you want to hang out with. As if you need extra proof, the new Babyshambles album is rather good. I am not a huge Kerouac fan. He never got to me the way Henry Miller or Burroughs or Bukowski (or even Ginsberg) did. Kerouac is a friend's favorite writer, and yet I am to be won over. I still find his life pretty fascinat I have been on a Velvet Underground and a Jack Kerouac/William S Burroughs kick here lately. It sorts of hits home on the point that creative people are not necessarily the people you want to hang out with. As if you need extra proof, the new Babyshambles album is rather good. I am not a huge Kerouac fan. He never got to me the way Henry Miller or Burroughs or Bukowski (or even Ginsberg) did. Kerouac is a friend's favorite writer, and yet I am to be won over. I still find his life pretty fascinating. Anyway, you can download Ginsberg and Burroughs talking about Kerouac at archive.org. There is also quite a bit of Burroughs stuff which is worth a listen. I have also been on a Vlevet Underground kick, listening to "Peel Slowly and See" quite a bit, and reading Victor Bockris' bio of Lou Reed: "Transformer". Lou's notoriously a prick (though in his defense, he does like pinball and comic books), and it's interesting how he has made it to be successful this far. It's a great book, though, if you are a big Reed fan (like myself), or finding out about him for the first time. As rock bios go, it's one of the best. If any criticism, it is too short at 400 pages. Extra bonus points (not that they're needed) for a transcript of Reed meeting William S Burroughs in the late 70's.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    Victor Bockris is a dreadful writer who has made quite a living writing biographies of New York scenesters and hipster icons (Warhol, Burroughs, Patti Smith, etc.). This smear job of Reed--who no doubt deserves it--feels like a personal vendetta from start to finish. It's a one-star effort that I grudgingly give a second star to because as a lifelong Lou Reed follower both fascinated and appalled by the man, I tore through it cover to cover in record time, hating it all the while. Victor Bockris is a dreadful writer who has made quite a living writing biographies of New York scenesters and hipster icons (Warhol, Burroughs, Patti Smith, etc.). This smear job of Reed--who no doubt deserves it--feels like a personal vendetta from start to finish. It's a one-star effort that I grudgingly give a second star to because as a lifelong Lou Reed follower both fascinated and appalled by the man, I tore through it cover to cover in record time, hating it all the while.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Walshaw

    Not quite the electrical manual I was looking for.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kimmo Sinivuori

    ”As soon as he came walking into my office, I could see this guy was not too connected with reality,” one RCA representative recalled when Lou Reed came to play his Metal Machine Music tapes for the first time. 1970s was the decade when Reed truly was mad, bad and dangerous to know. Sustained by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that would have destroyed any normal person Reed still managed to make several commercially successful records. Of course, as anyone who has put it on knows, Metal Machine ”As soon as he came walking into my office, I could see this guy was not too connected with reality,” one RCA representative recalled when Lou Reed came to play his Metal Machine Music tapes for the first time. 1970s was the decade when Reed truly was mad, bad and dangerous to know. Sustained by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that would have destroyed any normal person Reed still managed to make several commercially successful records. Of course, as anyone who has put it on knows, Metal Machine Music was never going to be a success. That record epitomizes seventies Reed showing the middle finger to the rest of the humanity and stating that ”no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself.” I read this book because I wanted to know more about Lou Reed’s seventies. As I have never really liked his seventies records my knowledge of Reed pretty much ends when he disbands the Velvet Underground in 1969 and begins again with the classic interview at the CBGBs conducted by Punk magazine’s Jon Holmstrom and Legs McNeil. Victor Bockris is a great biographer and he has written a great book about Reed. Bockris is unsparing of Reed and sometimes the book reads like a psychological profile. However, there is no malice in Bockris’ writing and he is not attempting a character assassination but rather shows exactly what Lou Reed, the Rock ’n’ Roll Animal or the Phantom of Rock, was like during those crazy years. Not that Bockris had no reason to be angry with Reed who, as the transcript in the appendix to the book about Reed meeting William Burroughs show, didn’t spare Bockris either. By 1978 ”that walking crystallization of cankerous cynicism” and anticharisma had turned ”into a punk version of the late-sixties bellicose Jack Kerouac.” When the NYC amphetamine supply dried, the skin and bones thin Reed had gained a beer gut as he was trying to stop taking drugs by drinking more and more alcohol. It was probably his second wife, Sylvia Morales, who saved Reed and turned him into a reasonably decent human being and less interesting to read about in the last quarter of the book that ends in 1994. After this book came out Reed had many more years to live and make music but I doubt if anyone can come up with a better description of seventies Reed than Bockris who was, after all, there himself. If the illustrations in this book were better, I would have given it five stars. I can recommend this to everyone interested not only in Lou Reed but also in the Velvet Underground and Warhol’s Silver Factory. This book gives a particularly interesting view of Warhol as he is looked at from a different vantage point than normally. John Cale, Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison are given a sympathetic treatment. In particular, one gets the feeling that Bockris preferred Cale to Reed as a musician when it came to their solo output. So do I, but as a character Reed definitely was more interesting than Cale.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rose Kelleher

    What a strange book; I hardly know where to begin. It does provide a lot of information, but the emphasis is on gossip rather than insight into the man's work, and the editorializing is heavy-handed and in some instances downright kooky. The author has such a strange perspective that between that and the anonymous sources, dubious grammar, misspellings, repetition, and malapropisms, it's hard to take anything he says seriously. I'm not saying this in defense of Lou Reed, either; the kookiness cu What a strange book; I hardly know where to begin. It does provide a lot of information, but the emphasis is on gossip rather than insight into the man's work, and the editorializing is heavy-handed and in some instances downright kooky. The author has such a strange perspective that between that and the anonymous sources, dubious grammar, misspellings, repetition, and malapropisms, it's hard to take anything he says seriously. I'm not saying this in defense of Lou Reed, either; the kookiness cuts both ways. For example, Reed's first wife, whom he mistreated, is mistreated again in this book. Bockris repeatedly blames the victim, insisting that she was banal and unintelligent, as though that justified abusing her. He seems to think she brought it all on herself by not standing up to her abuser. Yeah, right, because slender girls in their early twenties with self-esteem issues should just beat up their abusive husbands; that's the answer. In other places, Bockris uses shrill, hysterical language to inflate Reed's youthful misdemeanors into capital offenses. The kid comes home from college with a dog, which he dumps on his mother. Oh, no! No college kid has EVER done THAT before! Clearly, he's a psychotic monster, spreading evil wherever he goes! And so on. Bockris seems especially intent on defending Reed's parents. He wants to convince us that they were perfectly delightful in every way, and that if Reed was ever miserable at home, it must have been because he wanted to be miserable. To support this contention, Bockris relies on offhanded quotes from guests who visited the Reeds' house for short periods. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that middle-class suburban families aren't always as happy as they appear. Especially in the 1950s! Good Lord, how many middle-class kids were abused by their "perfect" parents in those days? Even if the only abuse he suffered was -- hello? -- HAVING HIS BRAIN ELECTROCUTED AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN -- and that's a documented fact -- that alone gives him the right to be pissed off. In short, this book is execrable, but it's also fascinating, and I can't pretend I didn't enjoy it. There are insights to be drawn from the material, but you have to draw them yourself, and be sure to take the author's assertions and insinuations with a big fat grain of salt.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Stahl

    An excellent, comprehensive look into one of rock’s most interesting characters. Being always a fan of Lou Reed’s work on Transformer (1972) and the first Velvet Underground album with Nico, I had more than a mild interest from the beginning. But the best thing about this book is that it introduced me to the rest of Reed's work, and while I don’t love all of it, I have come across some really great songs, which I’ve been listening to constantly ever since. I highly recommend Billy, Doing The Thi An excellent, comprehensive look into one of rock’s most interesting characters. Being always a fan of Lou Reed’s work on Transformer (1972) and the first Velvet Underground album with Nico, I had more than a mild interest from the beginning. But the best thing about this book is that it introduced me to the rest of Reed's work, and while I don’t love all of it, I have come across some really great songs, which I’ve been listening to constantly ever since. I highly recommend Billy, Doing The Things That We Want To, his entire Berlin album, the final Velvet album Loaded, and arguably the best song he ever wrote, Street Hassle. I even find his highly-polarising collaboration with Metallica absurdly enjoyable. Discovering this artist at the same time, I will associate this book with those songs, as if the book had a soundtrack. And as for the book itself, well, whether or not you’re initially interested in Lou Reed, the story of his life is incredibly fascinating, sometimes very bleak and disturbing, often very funny and to a large extent inspiring. He always considered himself more of a poet than a rockstar, and his lyrics are much more intellectual than your average rock fan probably cares to notice. His ultimate goal was to show us what happened when the works of men like Kerouac and Chandler found it into rock music. He was also notorious for his sexual deviances into homosexuality and transsexualism. But he came from an era when that was not accepted, and one always gets the impression he hated gays, even though he was one. This just adds to his dark, tragic enigma. Victor Bockriss does an awesome job of capturing the essence of Lou Reed. So often with biographies, stalkers like me are left unsatisfied, because we’re only offered a shallow glimpse of the person behind the name. I’m yet to find a great Steven Spielberg biography; one that looks beyond what got him director credits on Jaws and goes into personal information I have no business in knowing, like the kid who bullied him at school. That kind of shit. And Bockriss provides this insight. His knowledge of Lou throughout his life is borderline obsessive, and that’s what I want. It goes into intricate detail with every year of his life, with the making of all his albums, his confrontations with critics, his flings with men and women both. Bockriss also presents a very balanced view. There is no question that he idolised Mr Reed. But he’s not afraid to criticise and show him for the shit he really was a lot of the time. Reed was particularly horrible to his parents, who just misunderstood him, and whom he never allowed to really love him and yet still blamed them for their lack of affection. The monster that Reed became in the late 70’s, during his “Rock N Roll Animal” phase, was disturbing and made it very hard to like him. But as he sobered up through the 80’s and formed more serious relationships with the type of women who were able to put up with his shit, it was inspiring to witness. There were only two minor qualms I had with this. First one was that the death of his parents was never given any mention. Everyone else that bore significance in the story is at least given a mention; most times Reed actually dedicated a few songs to them - for Andy Warhol, he and his estranged VU band mate, John Cale, reunited and wrote an entire album. Since Bockriss takes the obvious stance of not condemning Lou’s parents for submitting him to electro-shock therapy in his teenage years, and continued to display them in a sad and tortured light, it just seems inconsistent that their passing was not mentioned. I was hoping Lou might have patched things up with them in the end. He apparently said this: But then I also found this photo: So I don’t know what to think. The other small shortcoming I noticed was one mentioned by the two or three other GR reviews. Fucking, it’s a well-known fact by children all over the world, that this book was originally published in 1994. It was re-issued and extended after the death of Lou Reed in 2013. The author considerately works in the rest of Reed’s life. But the other reviews stated that the real book ends at 1994; that the rest is not worth reading. I was like, “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” What about the highly controversial Lulu album Lou put out before his death, in which he banded with Metallica and pissed off just about every person in the world. Any rock critic surely knows about this album, and the hated legacy it carries. Primarily it was misunderstood because, Reed being a faded icon by then, the album was percieved generally as one of Metallica’s. In truth, they were basically just studio musicians, thrashing out their muddy, thunderous sound beneath Reed’s grim and weary vocals. But Metallica fans all over were befuddled and angered by this shit. What’s all this mess? Why’s grandpa Simpson ranting over the music? Brah, that’s fucked. If you’re single and have no friends, then take the time to watch this video. It conveys the anger these Metallica fanboys felt towards the album. I mean, shit, just watch it. The ignorance of this video, making out that Lou Reed was nobody and has no business associating with this superior band. It makes me want to troll the idiots and tell them what stupid assholes they are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9LcJ... But I was saying Bockriss added another hundred pages or so at the end. Well, it turns out they’re not really worthy of the perfection he’d sustained before. It jumps ahead about seven years, and he suddenly drops the straight-edged tone utilised up until then. Alright kids, I would like you to compare the opening of the book to this passage from post-94. PART 1 “1959 was a bad year for Lou, seventeen, who had been studying his bad-boy role ever since he’d worn a black armband to school when Johnny Ace shot himself in 1954. Now, five years later, the bad Lou grabbed the chance to drive everyone in his family crazy. Tyrannically presiding over their middle-class home, he slashed screeching chords on his electric guitar, practiced an effeminate way of walking, drew his sister aside in conspiratorial conferences, and threatened to throw the mother of all moodies if everyone didn’t pay complete attention to him”. POST 94 “This is one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the world, lined with cobblestone streets, brownstone houses, and dark Dickensian alleyways. For a romantic dreamer like Lou, it was also full of ghosts. Only a few blocks away was the White Horse Tavern, Delmore Schwartz and Bob Dylan’s favourite bar. Boutiques and bookshops line the cobblestone streets, as did candlelit restaurants, small theatres, and nearby cinemas. The area is protected from the grinding howls of building machines and ambulances that operate without cease by a drop down to river level just west of Seventh Avenue. The whole neighbourhood is graced by an early morning and late afternoon orange light specific to New York”. I mean, ain't like there’s anything wrong with this. But I think Bockriss went to the shitter and the ghost of Ernest Hemingway stepped in. The rest of the book is written with this colourful intention to wow its readers with its indelible beatitude. And wait until you start hearing about Laurie Anderson. She was Lou’s final wife, and I guess they meant a lot to each other. Their albums were conversationally linked; they spoke their feelings for each other and voiced their concerns in their songs. It was a very sweet change of tone for Reed. But I swear Bockriss had a massive crush on her. They way he suddenly forgets Lou Reed and gives these long and intimate speculations about the lyrical content of Laurie’s songs. You get to see this man frolicking in the springing meadow of Laurie Anderson’s mind. I can sympathise, man, everyone has to fall in love once in a while. But I didn’t buy this for your dissection of Laurie Anderson. I don’t care how her striking, angelic imagery evokes a rusted mug of coffee on the sun-drenched pane of Manhattan’s highest window. If you ask me, I think he knew Anderson was gonna read this, and he was hanging out for a blowjob. But joking aside, this book is very enjoyable - (easily the best biography I’ve read) - and Victor Bockriss should be dually commended. And may Lou Reed rest in peace. He gave so much to rock and roll.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nev Fountain

    I can't decide whether this is the best rock biography I've ever read or the worst. It starts incredibly strongly, a vivid tapestry stitching together Lou's home life, his days at Syracuse and his work with Andy Warhol and the Velvets. Then at some odd point it comes an endless list of quotes and press-cuttings, with passages so repetitive that I seriously had to check if they'd accidently reprinted pages. Then it kicks back into gear with the Lauri Anderson years, which is great, but then the a I can't decide whether this is the best rock biography I've ever read or the worst. It starts incredibly strongly, a vivid tapestry stitching together Lou's home life, his days at Syracuse and his work with Andy Warhol and the Velvets. Then at some odd point it comes an endless list of quotes and press-cuttings, with passages so repetitive that I seriously had to check if they'd accidently reprinted pages. Then it kicks back into gear with the Lauri Anderson years, which is great, but then the author's love for Laurie (rather than Lou) is so intense, the prose becomes unreadable; it congeals and melts down the page. Very odd selection of things to include too: the author quotes his own stuff and holds up his own VU book as an important milestone - fair enough, it probably was for all I know, but he doesn't mention the 'Perfect Day' BBC video, which was probably one of the most high profile things that happened to Lou in the entire 90s. All in all though, a worthwhile read. It certainly rekindled my enthusiasm for Lou's music and words.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kay Smillie

    A warts and all biography of Lou Reed. Having previously read Uptight, co-authored by Victor Bokris and Gerard Malanga, I was a bit worried as the style of the VU book wasn't fully satisfactory. Other reviews are unhappy about how this biography as it is less than generous in the description of Lou Reed, but Lou Reed himself admittedly that he wasn't always the easiest person to get on with. Do I like Lou Reed less having read this? No. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Well worth reading. Ray Smil A warts and all biography of Lou Reed. Having previously read Uptight, co-authored by Victor Bokris and Gerard Malanga, I was a bit worried as the style of the VU book wasn't fully satisfactory. Other reviews are unhappy about how this biography as it is less than generous in the description of Lou Reed, but Lou Reed himself admittedly that he wasn't always the easiest person to get on with. Do I like Lou Reed less having read this? No. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Well worth reading. Ray Smillie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    When I first started singing in a band I was so scared that the only way I could get through it was by exercising my cerebral talisman, saying, "Just pretend you're Lou Reed and you can't sing in tune but you're cool as fuck". Needless to say it got me through a few rehearsals until I found my own voice which ironically enough was described by critics as "monotonous and one-note", kinda like you-know-who. Transformer is the story of a rock star so reprehensible he makes Frankie Fane from "The Osc When I first started singing in a band I was so scared that the only way I could get through it was by exercising my cerebral talisman, saying, "Just pretend you're Lou Reed and you can't sing in tune but you're cool as fuck". Needless to say it got me through a few rehearsals until I found my own voice which ironically enough was described by critics as "monotonous and one-note", kinda like you-know-who. Transformer is the story of a rock star so reprehensible he makes Frankie Fane from "The Oscar" look like Mr. Green Jeans. Unfortunately the book takes an ugly tabloid approach to Reed's viciousness (pun) and never once mentions the amazing songwriting he's known for, good enough to survive even the worst produced records ever (hi,Richard Robinson). In other words - I don't give a shit about your manners, kill me with your art. So while it's fair to say the late Lou Reed is probably making the Devil very unhappy in Hell I still can't stop listening to Transformer, White Light/White Heat, Loaded, and even the banal Sally Can't Dance. And if you don't think "Ocean" isn't the most beautiful, heart breaking song ever written then you have no soul.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Corey Edwards

    A fascinating, in-depth look at the contradictory mess that was Lou Reed. Recommended for those with more than a passing interest in the "godfather of punk." I somehow came away from this book less enamored of Lou Reed as a person, yet compelled to dig far deeper into his catalog than I already have - even albums of his that I've owned previously and had discarded out of distaste. Now that's decent biographing! This review is for the updated, post 2013 edition. A fascinating, in-depth look at the contradictory mess that was Lou Reed. Recommended for those with more than a passing interest in the "godfather of punk." I somehow came away from this book less enamored of Lou Reed as a person, yet compelled to dig far deeper into his catalog than I already have - even albums of his that I've owned previously and had discarded out of distaste. Now that's decent biographing! This review is for the updated, post 2013 edition.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Derek James Baldwin

    This is pretty bad, especially the last few dozen pages, written after Lou Reed's death, which adopt a hagiographic tone very out of keeping with the rest of it. But then again I had the distinct impression that no one can have proof read this at any point. Frequently you'd be told a factoid and then told it again very soon afterward...as though the author had stopped for the night, and then picked things up again without reading the last page or two. The tone is patchy, seldom very engaging, an This is pretty bad, especially the last few dozen pages, written after Lou Reed's death, which adopt a hagiographic tone very out of keeping with the rest of it. But then again I had the distinct impression that no one can have proof read this at any point. Frequently you'd be told a factoid and then told it again very soon afterward...as though the author had stopped for the night, and then picked things up again without reading the last page or two. The tone is patchy, seldom very engaging, and really it's just not worth the trouble unless you're very keen to find out more about Reed. Which I wasn't especially, and am certainly not now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    James Newman

    Raw, honest, rock biography featuring perhaps the 20th century's most inventive original song-writer - Lou Reed. Bockris who had factory connections and hung out with William Burroughs during the bunker years was probably the best choice to pen this biography. If you like rock and roll, drugs, strange sex action and moutains of pills, thrills and bellyaches you can't go much wronger than this 'un. Raw, honest, rock biography featuring perhaps the 20th century's most inventive original song-writer - Lou Reed. Bockris who had factory connections and hung out with William Burroughs during the bunker years was probably the best choice to pen this biography. If you like rock and roll, drugs, strange sex action and moutains of pills, thrills and bellyaches you can't go much wronger than this 'un.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Simon Sweetman

    The original bio was my favourite of the Lou Reed biographies I read about 20 years ago - sad to see that this "update" does very little (though, perhaps it's fair to say Reed did very little across his last 20 years - at least not much of interest to a biographer). Bockris really doesn't even try though. Just a few chapters documenting the Laurie Anderson relationship and lip-service to the albums. Pointless if you've read it before and a cheap knock-off in time for Xmas of course... The original bio was my favourite of the Lou Reed biographies I read about 20 years ago - sad to see that this "update" does very little (though, perhaps it's fair to say Reed did very little across his last 20 years - at least not much of interest to a biographer). Bockris really doesn't even try though. Just a few chapters documenting the Laurie Anderson relationship and lip-service to the albums. Pointless if you've read it before and a cheap knock-off in time for Xmas of course...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dominick

    This biography of Reed is interesting and well-researched. It does an excellent job of proving that Reed’s a monumental asshole. It could have been a lot longer, though; I’d have liked to have seen more detailed commentaries on the music, certainly, and there were also several points at which much more seemed to be left to say.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    This is essentially a 3-star book, but Bockris gets 1 entire star taken away for claiming that "Lulu" is Lou Reed's greatest album. This is essentially a 3-star book, but Bockris gets 1 entire star taken away for claiming that "Lulu" is Lou Reed's greatest album.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Frawley

    The combination of enormous ego & chronic insecurity is not uncommon in performing arts. Trump is, after all, little more than a performer. But Lou Reed's apparently never treated issues informed his entire life &, frankly, made him an absolute prick for most of it. From re-mixing recordings to turn down any musician he feared may have been better than him to insisting on sole publishing rights to songs that were more likely group creations of The Velvet Underground to telling William Burroughs The combination of enormous ego & chronic insecurity is not uncommon in performing arts. Trump is, after all, little more than a performer. But Lou Reed's apparently never treated issues informed his entire life &, frankly, made him an absolute prick for most of it. From re-mixing recordings to turn down any musician he feared may have been better than him to insisting on sole publishing rights to songs that were more likely group creations of The Velvet Underground to telling William Burroughs (28 years his senior in 1979) how great he is before asking the legendary author if he's listened to any Lou Reed records. And I haven't even mentioned his wife beating. That someone who enjoyed (although enjoyment is not an emotion that Lou seems to have experienced often) such a long & successful career could have been so petty & cruel & vindictive & disloyal & etc etc etc is a bit beyond me. Victor Bockris knew Reed & his research appears meticulous. He also wrote a biog of Warhol that I have read so he is extremely familiar with the New York artistic world of the 60s & 70s. He manages to remain objective* about his subject when I have obviously failed to do so in this feedback. As a biography it is definitive & deserves another star. But Reed was such an arsehole I simply can't manage it. The meeting between Reed & Burroughs is included in Appendix B. You might want to read that first to see if you can stomach the rest. *Saving the Burroughs meeting till last, & leaving us with that, may not have been objective.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rich Engel

    The first three-quarters is pretty bitchy, psychoanalyzing and calling Lou Reed every name in the book, while giving plenty of detail but also some clearly guessed-at stuff from his earliest days to about 1980. Billy Name, Gerard Malanga, lots on John Cale, what you would expect; the author doesn't manage to track down Reed's girlfriend Rachel to get any quotes about their time together, which Lou later basically disavowed. The copy I read was the revised edition, so the final quarter is almost The first three-quarters is pretty bitchy, psychoanalyzing and calling Lou Reed every name in the book, while giving plenty of detail but also some clearly guessed-at stuff from his earliest days to about 1980. Billy Name, Gerard Malanga, lots on John Cale, what you would expect; the author doesn't manage to track down Reed's girlfriend Rachel to get any quotes about their time together, which Lou later basically disavowed. The copy I read was the revised edition, so the final quarter is almost the opposite, all about how the VU is so revered and all the money Lou made around the time of the New York album onwards. No chance I will seek out an early edition without the added revisions. Bockris has written a lot about the Velvets so I guess this is 'essential' but I rarely read about rock history so not sure how this compares with others. It's over 400pp!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Roger Manifold

    One of the greatest storys of all time, from teenager to his passing Lou Reed's life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs with a self destructive switch that flipped at anytime there is no hiding the fact the genius of Reed's work was often only recognised years after poor reviews at the time of release of his work underlines just how ahead of his time he was, this linked with a New York lifestyle through the 60s 70s 80s makes on hell of a story, I can say with confidence there will NEVER be ano One of the greatest storys of all time, from teenager to his passing Lou Reed's life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs with a self destructive switch that flipped at anytime there is no hiding the fact the genius of Reed's work was often only recognised years after poor reviews at the time of release of his work underlines just how ahead of his time he was, this linked with a New York lifestyle through the 60s 70s 80s makes on hell of a story, I can say with confidence there will NEVER be another that comes anywhere close to Lou Reed The enigmatic nature of the man and the fact he never documented autobiographical facts will always leave an open ambiguity but I found this biography extremely well constructed, insightful and totally enjoyable

  23. 4 out of 5

    The Book Grocer

    Purchase Transformer here for just $10! A great biography with no punches held. Detailed and honest, you really feel you are getting to know the man. Alicia - The Book Grocer Purchase Transformer here for just $10! A great biography with no punches held. Detailed and honest, you really feel you are getting to know the man. Alicia - The Book Grocer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Harrison Rip

    Excessively-detailed story of a pretty uninteresting guy! It did convince me to listen to every Lou Reed song ever recorded and I found about 20 non-hits that I liked and 500 I didn't. Lou Reed was an insecure poseur who wrote some great songs. Excessively-detailed story of a pretty uninteresting guy! It did convince me to listen to every Lou Reed song ever recorded and I found about 20 non-hits that I liked and 500 I didn't. Lou Reed was an insecure poseur who wrote some great songs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Mcgarry

    Lou Reed is a musician who remains such a mystery to many people, yet he is one of the most talented - yet underrated - singer/songwriters in history. Transformer gives a detailed account of Reed's younger life, his rise to success, trials and tribulations with substance abuse and conflicts with his family. Lou Reed is a musician who remains such a mystery to many people, yet he is one of the most talented - yet underrated - singer/songwriters in history. Transformer gives a detailed account of Reed's younger life, his rise to success, trials and tribulations with substance abuse and conflicts with his family.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Russell Chamberlain

    Exhaustive and really indepth perspectives on the artist.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    Lou Reed is to me the songwriter of NYC He represents New York in all its glory and all its dirt and its pettiness and hate The author tries to be impartial in general he succeeds.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Mcconville

    Favourite Lou Reed quote - " I never said I was tasteful.. I am not tasteful." Favourite Lou Reed quote - " I never said I was tasteful.. I am not tasteful."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liz Bass

    He was a mess.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Liked it a lot. Read it quickly.

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