I grew up with parents who were always playing The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Jethro Tull, but I found The Velvet Underground on my own. I was in high school, probably reading a thread on the Warren Ellis Forum arguing about which album was the best. I went out and bought a cd of The Velvet Underground and Nico, and listened to it every morning for weeks on my way to school. Here was music contemporary with the stuff I’d grown up listening to, but rawer, unsanitary even measured against the hallucinogenic excess I’d already been exposed to. And, crucially, untainted by parental endorsement. (Looking back at my ancient star ratings from when iTunes was fresh new technology, I see that teenage E. J. was particularly fond of “Heroin” and “The Black Angel’s Death Song.”) This coincided nicely with my burgeoning development of a personal taste in movies; in 1998 and for a few years thereafter Trainspotting, with its glorious and wrenching overdose scene set to “Perfect Day” off Transformer, was my most watched film. I rented it from the Blockbuster near my house countless times, and the soundtrack joined The Velvet Underground as an early occupant of the CD player of my first car. The mundane tragedies of high school constricting my vision like the walls of a red-carpeted coffin? “Perfect Day” was there to sand down the edges.
During the time in my life when I was first learning what it meant to go looking for new things and claim them as my own, to take active ownership of culture, Lou Reed loomed large. Here’s his Rolling Stone obituary. RIP.