An exploration of Lou Reed solo songs that are based on characters, including Walk on the Wild Side, Satellite of Love, Charley’s Girl, Caroline Says II, Oh Jim, Street Hassle and Sally Can’t Dance, with a world class band
“I’m writing about real things. Real people. Real characters. You have to believe what I write about is true or you wouldn’t pay any attention at all” Lou Reed
Lou’s Reed’s body of work, both with The Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, reflect an artist of uncompromising honesty. He wrote about the unsavoury reality he knew, in a manner that was willing to offend and disillusion. His lurid character studies of New York’s misfits and outcasts inspired the countercultural movements that followed.
His album Berlin (1973), for example, paints a portrait of divided world Reed saw; a vociferous exhortation to recognise those on the fringes who have been maligned and exploited. Rolling Stone found it “so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance” on its author. Despite the album’s commercial failure, however, Reed was defining himself as a purveyor of unpalatable truths; and saw his cult status grow in tandem with his commercial reputation. This duality is telling of the multi-faceted and intrepid artist he was.
At the time of writing the album, Reed had never visited Berlin but said that he “liked the idea of a divided city” and that it could have easily been called Brooklyn, the borough he grew up in. You might say that Reed did eventually write ‘Brooklyn’, though under the name New York (1989), a sprawling anthology about AIDS-stricken city, a dark portrait of a town unrecognised in mainstream music. This time the album was awarded with the commercial success it’s daring subject deserved. New York explores many of the same themes as Berlin, but there is glimmer of optimism in it that people didn’t see in the first album.
Reed’s dystopian rendering of characters – with alternating degrees of empathy, emotional detachment and bile – is the central motif of his body of work. This tour will perform a selection of Lou Reed’s solo songs with protagonists, re-exploring the distinctive narrative and musicality that made up this epoch-defining artist.
Strange’s first band was Doctors of Madness, formed in 1975, recording three influential but non-commercial albums. The band was supported by the Sex Pistols, the Jam and Joy Division. He disbanded the band in 1978, after Dave Vanian of the Damned briefly joined him on vocals. He subsequently recorded as a solo artist, releasing two albums The Live Rise of Richard Strange (Ze Records 1981) and The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange (Virgin Records 1981) before further releases with the Engine Room up to the early 1990s.
Strange has collaborated on recordings by International Noise Orchestra, Anni Hogan and Jolie Holland. He has produced records by Way of the West (“Don’t Say That’s Just for White Boys”), Tom Robinson (“Martin’s Gone”) and the Nightingales album Pigs on Purpose.
Richard Strange – vocals, guitar
Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey, NJE) – musical director, saxophone
Kevin Armstrong (Iggy Pop, David Bowie) – guitar
Paul Cuddeford (Steve Harley, Ian Hunter) – bass
Florence Sabeva (Earl Slick) – keyboards
Dave Imby (Kid Creole) – drums
Tour produced by Tom Wilcox / Maniac Squat Records