It seems like everyone from the BBC’s Mark Mardell to the Bishop of Norwich turns out to be a closet Lou Reed fan – the bishop sounding vaguely ashamed to confess that he hadn’t started a band after buying the original Velvet Underground album. I suspect, though it’s hard for me to be sure after so long, that Transformer was the 3rd or 4th vinyl LP the teenage JB ever bought – after the first two Queen albums and probably Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets – and it was soon followed by stuff like Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Talking Heads, Magazine, Television, Richard Hell, even Lloyd Cole, that all fell firmly into that indie tradition. Even the stuff that’s on in the background now, the Fado of Mariza’s second album, has that kind of gloom and a stripped-down style that must appeal to a dark, puritanical streak in me!
But am I alone in wishing the BBC had never used Perfect Day? The song once seemed respectably-obscure, a favourite of the kind of people who might go to watch Trainspotting or seek out Robert Mapplethorpe shows, and I seem to recall feeling unembarrassed enough to try to impress someone with my own attempt to sing it (what we suffer for love, eh?).
And then the BBC did their promo and from then on Perfect Day became a standard known to people who seemed to have no right to anything so “cool” and edgy (odd that David Cameron and George Osborne haven’t yet jumped on the Lou Reed bandwagon). Suddenly it was so popular you’d encounter it if you were unfortunate enough to be watching Saturday evening TV and the ballroom dancing or talent shows. Apart from this gruesome duet with Pavarotti (you’ve got to wonder how those two got on in person), even Susan Boyle recorded it!
The only saving grace was the thought of these newcomers’ reactions when they delved a little deeper into Lou Reed’s back catalogue or their 10 year old asked them what the words meant….
Still, all is not quite lost. There’s a fine duet with Elvis Costello, who you can imagine being a big fan, but it’s trumped by this one (from Jools Holland’s Late Show) with Antony which is more than decent.
As for my favourite five, in descending order:
- Caroline Says II – Berlin
- Halloween Parade – New York
- Venus in Furs – Velvet Underground
- Cremation – Magic and Loss
- Dirty Boulevard – New York
A cheerful little selection….