Rock and roll icon Lou Reed died today at the age of 71. It's gonna take awhile for us to process the fact that Reed won't be here to insult, scare, amuse and inspire us anymore. But it'll take an even longer amount of time to accept that we will no longer hear any new music from one of the most brilliant, influential songwriters of the 20th century. Reed has written dozens of songs that will be standards far past our lifetime. But there's a whole lot of amazing music beyond "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Sweet Jane." So below, we've compiled a list of 15 of our favorite slightly lesser-known Reed songs.
Considering the fact they have such a small discography, it's hard to say anything the Velvet Underground did was obscure. But there are certainly some overlooked gems that aren't talked about much, including the breathtakingly quiet "Jesus" from the self-titled third album, and the supremely fun, nearly out-of-breath "Cool It Down" from Loaded. There's also the original demo of "Sad Song," which would later go on to become the massive conclusion of Berlin—but we prefer the intimate, fraying-at-the-edges early version.
"Cool It Down"
"Sad Song (Demo)"
Reed stumbled out of the gate with his solo career: his self-titled first album, containing re-recorded versions of superior Velvet Underground songs, is routinely forgotten by critics. Then he hit the commercial big time by enlisting David Bowie to produce Transformer. On the backs of the singles from that album (as well as the FM radio staple, Rock And Roll Animal), he embraced being an ambisexual glam rocker with a penchant for spitting at journalists and fans alike during the first half of the '70s. Hidden in this period is the gem below, "Nowhere At All," a blistering b-side that was tossed to the side for inexplicable reasons.
"Nowhere At All"
Those albums—plus the moody Berlin and over-enthusiastic Sally Can't Dance—are all worth listening to. But that's well-trodden ground: it's his much more hit-and-miss albums between 1975 (or post-Metal Machine Music) and 1982 career renaissance The Blue Mask where things start to get interesting. None of these albums (with the exception of the domestic bliss of Coney Island Baby) are wholly satisfying on their own, but they all include a handful of wonderful overlooked tunes (and a few essential ones, like "Street Hassle," that will forever be synonymous with Reed) that you need to hear.
"Crazy Feeling" (from Coney Island Baby)
"Families" (from The Bells)
"Think It Over" (from Growing Up In Public)
After the highpoint of The Blue Mask, Reed went through another period in the '80s with a bunch of mediocre, overlooked albums (and one of his worst, Mistrial) that all had a few gems. He seemed to soften a bit in this decade, releasing some of the most tender love songs of his career (three of which you can hear below).
"Rooftop Garden" (from Legendary Hearts)
"Turn To Me" (from New Sensations)
"Tell It To Your Heart" (from Mistrial)
And then, Reed suddenly was fully in sync with his muse again, producing the greatest string of consecutive solo albums of his career: the gritty New York, the elegiac Songs For Drella and the devastating Magic & Loss. This arguably stands as the second greatest artistic period in Reed's life (second only to his time with the Velvet Underground). Go listen to these three records immediately.
"Halloween Parade" (from New York)
"Hello, It's Me" (from Songs For Drella)
"Cremation" (from Magic & Loss)
"Sword Of Damocles" (from Magic & Loss)
His final studio albums were a bit of a hodge-podge—seriously, you try listening to Lulu or The Raven the whole way through—but Ecstasy was very good, and the title track and "Modern Dance" deserve inclusion on any best of Reed list.
"Modern Dance" (from Ecstasy)