Featured Album – Blue with Lou – Nils Lofgren/Lou Reed

No, this isn’t a posthumous (Reed died in 2013) collaboration nor has Lou come back from the dead. This was a songwriting collaboration, and Nils has released this new album around it. Now I don’t follow either of these guys that closely so apparently some of these songs were released before. And not all of them are collaborations.

Apparently, in 1978, Lofgren was recording a solo album, Nils. He was having a tough time with the lyrics. His producer was Bob Ezrin who had produced Lou Reed’s 1973 Berlin album. When Ezrin suggested the two get together to write, Lofgren said, “I thought to myself, ‘He’s not gonna co-write with me, he’s Lou Reed.’ They met, Reed didn’t bite his head off and they agreed to collaborate.

But I will here borrow from the Boston Globe:

“When Nils Lofgren sat with Lou Reed to discuss writing songs together while they were watching the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on television in Reed’s New York City apartment in 1978, he probably didn’t imagine it would take 40 years for many of the best songs from their resulting collaboration to finally see the light of day. Lofgren’s searing, deeply felt Blue With Lou, his first solo record in eight years, is centered on six (of 13) of the songs they co-wrote.”

So how is the album? Well, it’s got a lot of good tunes and great gobs of muscular, taut guitar-pickin’ by Mr. Also E Street Band. The newly-recorded Lofgren-Reed compositions are “Attitude City,” “Give,” “Talk Thru the Tears,” “City Lights,” “Don’t Let Your Guard Down,” and “Cut Him Up.”

Let us now check out “Give,” because it does not suck and it is pretty funky:

Spotify link

Nils: “I had 13 songs, complete with melodies, bridges, and lyrics that needed changing, so Lou said to me, ‘Send me the music,’ and I did. Shockingly, 3½ weeks later — honestly, I’d pretty much forgotten about it — he called me at 4:30 in the morning. Lou said he’d been up for three days and nights with no sleep, and he loved the tape.

He had completed 13 sets of lyrics and was willing to dictate them to me. I got a pad and pencil and took notation. It was careful notation, and I asked a lot of questions,” he says with a laugh. “He was really cool and thoughtful and above all, he was excited about the songs.” (For the record, there is also a Tom Petty tribute called “Dear Heartbreaker.”)

Here’s a mellow number called “Talk Through the Tears,” proving once again that the hard-edged Mr. Reed had a soft side:

Spotify link

As to those other previously released songs, they were “A Fool Like Me,” “I Found Her,” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” from Nils, and “City Lights,” “Stupid Man” and “With You” on his Reed’s album The Bells. Lofgren released “Life” appeared on his Damaged Goods and “Driftin’ Man” for his Breakaway Angel. (“City Lights” repeats on this album.)

Lastly I’ll give you the title track which Lofgren wrote for Reed. More muscular playing here. Nils name checks “Walk on the Wild Side” somewhere in here:

Spotify link

Nils has played with just about everybody BTW and I recently name-checked him in a post on Roy Buchanan.

This is a fine album and I think, worthy of your attention.

Sources: Wikipedia; Best Classic Bands; Boston Globe

73 thoughts on “Featured Album – Blue with Lou – Nils Lofgren/Lou Reed

  1. So nice to have a “postcard” from Uncle Lou. We were on close terms in 1978 when he released “The Bells,” one of his strangest albums. Although I haven’t clicked your song links yet, this collaboration also sounds a bit oddball, but I’ll check it out…thanks Jim!

    (BTW, it’s probably a typo, but Reed did “Berlin” in 1973, not ’78.)

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    1. I know my readers and I know Mr. Velvet Underground would be all over this. Musically, this sounds more like Nils than Lou. But I’m digging it. Right-e-oh on the year. I had ’78 on my mind. thanks

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    2. Pete, some important news to share. Apparently they found some old tapes under Funk and Wagnall’s porch. Turns out Lou did some recording with Frey and Henley. He sang, “Take It Easy,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” He also wrote a few new tunes for them” “Don’t These Guys have Any Balls?” “I Hate the Eagles,” and “Fuck Don Henley.”

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      1. You’re hilarious. Truth be told, Reed is on record admitting he absolutely hated all West Coast rock. According to “Popism: The Warhol Sixties,” while with the Velvets he was on a date (with a woman), and they bumped into a couple members of the Buffalo Springfield. Reed supposedly started screaming profanities at them, to the horror of his date. This may have been after the Velvets got into it with Bill Graham when they appeared at the Fillmore.

        Like I told Aphoristical, I really don’t “hate” the Eagles (like I initially told you). For people who are OK eating Cheez-Whiz instead of real cheese, they’re absolutely fine. 🙂

        (Also, I just got a newsletter from Joe Boyd. A new movie called “Amazing Grace,” about three days of live performance of Aretha singing gospel with James Cleveland is on the horizon.)

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        1. Heh! Couldn’t resist busting your balls. I figured the idea of Reed playing with the Eagles would be enough to make your head explode. 🙂

          Truthfully, there is (or was) a whole East Coast/West Coast dichotomy in rock. I am as guilty of wallowing in that as anybody. I grew up all “East Coast tough” and so while I appreciate the talents of say, Brian Wilson, I am really not much of a Beach Boys fan. Likewise Byrds and even the Dead. They all seemed kinda limp to me compared to what I grew up with. Hell, Clapton couldn’t stand any of those bands. Duane and Dickey loved playing with Jerry Garcia but Gregg went out of his way to diss the Dead in his autobio. For me the West Coast bands were Airplane and CCR. And later, CSNY. But the idea of screaming profanities is a bit much. I mean really, live and let live. Who gives a shit that much?

          As to Cheez-Whiz, that goes great with a bottle of Boone’s Farm.

          As to Joe Boyd, he is woefully behind the times. I wrote about “Amazing Grace” last December in my Aretha series. And in fact it’s been playing here at the theaters in the Boston area for at least two weeks. I’m debating whether to go see it or wait for it to go online.

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        2. Hmm. I’ll have to reread that newsletter Boyd sent. My impression was the movie was just coming out, but maybe he was just referring to his involvement with it? Sydney Pollack was to direct it initially, but he evidently wasn’t up to the task of syncing the audio with the visual, so Boyd later took over.

          We could have a long and interesting discussion about the merits and demerits of certain West Coast artists, and their comparison with NYC-based artists. For me, and I think you as well – and like with most everything else – it’s on a case-by-case basis. Comparing music “scenes” is odious. But I thought the Reed-Springfield story is funny, and characteristic of Lou in his glory days. Let’s remember, in ’66 or ’67 he was an amphetamine-rattled “angry young man,” a rock ‘n’ roll fiend who also studied poetry, and surrounded by intense downtown avant-garde types. He mellowed out later…well, a little anyway.

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        3. And one of my problems with that whole Velvet Underground/Andy Warhol thing is it smacked a bit of bohemian pretension. You may not agree but that’s the way it felt to me.

          As to “scenes,” yes, shifting gears but some years before I arrived in Boston, some record execs tried to create a “Boss-town” scene. Abject failure. Later a Boston scene grew organically and was pretty productive and influential. I think they have to happen organically

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        4. I remember reading about that faux “Boss-town” thing. I think the Beacon Street Union was at the head of that, though I know nothing about them. You’re right, it has to be organic.

          Yeah, I probably disagree with the “bohemian pretension” tag of yours, although I understand why you make it. A bohemian is a hanger-on of the arts. I would argue that Warhol wasn’t a poseur, he was a groundbreaking visual artist who was successful and respected before he became a pop media darling (and then dissected celebrity and glamour for his art). John Cale was classically trained and had studied under John Cage and LaMonte Young. Reed was a middle-class Jew who’d studied poetry under Delmore Schwartz yet who cranked out the crassest type of assembly-line rock for Pickwick Music, while worshipping free jazz artists like Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman. The Velvets, like the Beatles, stretched the boundaries of pop and rock, and they took their mission seriously. There’s been an awful lot of art-rock pretension since Warhol and the Velvets, a lot of them imitators, which probably colors your opinion. Paul Morrissey, Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick, and all those dancers, actors, and models? I don’t pay much attention to them. For me, it’s the Velvets. In the beginning, Warhol’s celebrity helped them, but they in turn enhanced his image. Also, the Velvets split from the Factory in late ’67 or early ’68, and went through several interesting musical stages without Warhol. But most non-fans only associate them with Warhol.

          There was a rule in the Velvets that you weren’t allowed to play one blues riff (and they never did).

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        5. Fair argument. Nice defense of the realm, if you will. You know a lot more about that scene than I do so I’ll defer on that one.

          As to the blues, yeah that was also a rule – maybe more informal – of both “alternative rock” and the punks. I really think alternative meant alternative to blues-based or Chuck Berry-based rock. The punks, of course, had total disdain for the blues and pretty every musical form that came prior to them. Year Zero I believe they called it in the UK.

          I will tell you that if I had been in a band like the Velvets, given that rule I wouldn’t last a day. I’m not wed to it by any means but I am primarily a blues guitarist and boy, that would be like them telling me “don’t breathe.”

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        6. BTW, Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus were part of the Bosstown Sound. A friend of mine grew up around here and remembers that era not fondly

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        7. Ultimate Spinach!!!!!! Possibly the greatest band not called The Shaggs. I actually own their second album, “Behold and See.” I beheld. I’m battling progressive macular degeneration.

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        8. Yeah, Lou wanted to make some money by that point, I think, so his music was a bit more traditional rock, notwithstanding oddities like “Berlin” and “Metal Machine Music.”

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        9. I agree, commercially. Critical reception was mixed at the time “Animal” came out. One critic wrote that the record did more for his backup band than for Reed himself. I know you like that album. I like the truncated version of “Sweet Jane,” with its majestic 2-guitar intro, but the original version is more personal, and has a beautiful middle verse that even Reed lamented was chopped out.

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        10. What can I say? To quote Bruce, I’m a rocker, baby I’m a rocker. Who loves dual screaming guitars. But I think Lou was right in there, it was still him, his persona – just cranked up to eleven! 🙂

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        11. Entertaining reading the back and forths my you two.I think you know where CB is going to keep the dial when it comes to the Velvets and the Beach Bous. I always thought The Undergrounds music had a real hard edge similar to their Detroit cousins, Mitch Ryder, MC5, Stooges, Seger etc. But when it came to playing hard rock CCR didn’t take a back seat to anyone. But what do I know I’m just a guy from up north who’s freezing his ass off.
          I’ve been getting a few VU tunes in my spins. They hold up nicely.

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        12. Generally speaking, it is somewhat of a stereotype to contrast East Coast vs. West Coast. But while a CCR could come out of the West Coast, I would maintain that a Rascals never could.

          But the Left Coast is unquestionably more laid back in general. I knew a guy from hardscrabble Pittsburgh who moved to San Diego. Between stints of playing guitar he plays Ultimate Frisbee on the beach! They actually have exercise equipment on beaches out there. Here the beach is a couple months respite.

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        13. A lot generalizations and stereotypes are boring and an easy way for people not to do their own thinking. Always exceptions.
          There are differences in life styles from a town like Pittsburgh and where I live for sure. But I love the shot of new blood and attitude those people bring.
          Listening to this album. You would have no idea it was a Lou thing unless you knew it going in. But a lot of these types of musical turns are in spirit.

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        14. Stereotypes can be useful but they can also entrap people into a canned image. For example, all Canadians wear a toque. Or all Philly boys are handsome, charming and sexy.

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        15. This album is one of those that will get better the more I listen to it. I recognize the ‘City Lights’ cut from a Lou album. I’ll just have to spend some time with this.

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        16. The VU shared a few bills with the MC5, and their use of white noise, distortion, and feedback was similar (also the Stooges), but the VU had a lot more class. For one, they could write words. Sterling Morrison (the VU’s lead guitarist) wrote that while he liked the MC5’s music, he didn’t like their radical politicizing, saying “I consider music to be more important than politics, and particularly pissant politicians like John Sinclair.”

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        17. Sure, but hey, cut them some slack. It was the Sixties. Not everybody was doing the revolutionary shuffle. But a lot were and to some extent, felt they HAD to.

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  2. Y’know, this sounds pretty good. Not what I would have expected from a Reed collaboration (though I guess the lack of Reed involvement in the finished product allows for it to be somewhat Nils shaped). I’ll set aside some time for it.

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    1. Yeah, if you didn’t know it by him telling you there’d be no way to know. Too bad he couldn’t find some way to make it sound more Lou. But it was words and music and Lou was the words. But I guess we should be thankful for what we get.

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  3. Interesting. But I’m not surprised by collaborations anymore but this is a bit of a “surprise”. I really do like it when artists I dig get together creatively. Case in point on Nils/Lou. Not one of those record label things when they bring in popular artists of the day to duet with the likes of Santana but things like this.
    Just listened to the first take (will be spinning the whole thing) and your right about the sound. Lou is probably there more in spirit and lyrics than musically. Sounds like a good Lofgren recording. Good choice Doc.

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    1. Total surprise to me, CB. It just seems like an odd pairing but somehow it just worked. Nils pulls off some bitchin’ guitar he doesn’t get to play as much with Bruce. Totally digging it and will be spinning it again soon.

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      1. I have a few Nils records and like them. And yes he can play. It is an odd pairing but musically i get it. Lofgren is a talented guy. You don’t play with Young and Springsteen because you’re a bum. I’m kinda of looking forward to spinning the whole record just want to bracket the time. It feels like one of those listens I like.

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        1. Dunno… Patti gets a chance to sing a beat or two of Rumble Doll from time to time but you never get a burst of I Am A Patriot from Steve or any of Nils’ solo either.
          But, as pointed out in a recent post, he’s allowed to set light to a couple tunes and given a spotlight on tracks like Youngstown

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        2. I have, posted about it recently having preordered. Have also been enjoying “There Goes My Miracle” the last couple of days too. Very different vibe and bodes well

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        3. Ha! I like that. I’ve never and probably will never see the E Street live though, last time the boys rolled through the ticket prices were so obscene I wrote it off on principal as well as dosh.

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        4. I think last time he came through was for Hard Rock Calling… tickets were £125 a piece, not to mention London not being next door

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        5. You never know, it still could happen. He really is something to see. If I ever run into him I’ll hit him up for a couple tickets. The whole big concert thing wasn’t my bag even when I was going to shows. I always liked the small venues. Like the local pub.

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        6. Good thing because I’ve never been closer than 20 rows back. Next time you hang with him, see if you can get me some front row seats. And Tony, when are you having the cookout with Jeff Beck this summer? I need to plan around that.

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        7. Actually my source is a guy who’s cousin knew one of the roadies back in the 70’s. So it’s a pretty sure thing for front row. We might have to hump a little equipment. How’s the back these days?

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