Notes from the Velvet Underground: The Life of Lou Reed

Doubleday. Apr. 2017. 416p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780857522665. $34.95. MUSIC
Sounes (Down the Highway; Fab) focuses on Lou Reed (1942–2013), the former Velvet Underground frontman and rock innovator responsible for the 1972 hit "Walk on the Wild Side." This well-researched title covers all facets of Reed's life, from his Jewish middle-class upbringing on Long Island, NY, to his critically panned collaboration with the heavy metal band Metallica in 2011. Ultimately, one comes away from this book with a profoundly negative impression of Reed. Numerous interviewees reveal him to be a prickly, hypocritical control freak, highly erratic owing to problems with amphetamines and alcohol, and a misogynist with a history of abuse against women. Among the work's strengths is that, unlike other bios about Reed, it doesn't focus too heavily on the Velvet Underground, which only constituted five years (1965–70) of his more than five-plus decades in the recording industry. As with Sounes's previous books, this is a very entertaining read, largely because of the gossipy nature of his primary research.
VERDICT This comprehensive, albeit snippy, page-turner might end up being the definitive Reed biography.
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