on lou reed & bisexuality

I love The Velvet Underground, and I love Lou Reed even more. I remember when he died; by happenstance, I met up with a fellow music nerd not long afterwards and asked if they’d heard the news. They replied that they listened to all his music that day – just feeling it, letting themselves reflect on who Lou was, the impact he’d left.

Another, less-commonly discussed impact is Lou’s open discussion of his bisexuality. While not quite a queer icon, many, like myself, have appreciated that someone so widely revered in the music community was…not straight.

The thing is, I feel as though that that’s something erased from his narrative, and the narrative of “classic rock” in general. He wrote a song called “Venus in Furs” about BDSM, yet he’s been repackaged into one of the many white men who form the canon of “traditional” music that you, your dad, and most of your (let’s be real, male) friends listen to on repeat.

I was in a bookstore not too long ago and found myself in the “nonfiction” section. There were several books on Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. I immediately flipped to the indices of each book to see if “bisexual” was referenced. When that failed, I read through the section of the books that deal with Lou’s teenage years, when he was subjected to electroshock therapy to cure his homosexual urges.

No references, even though he wrote the 1974 song “Kill Your Sons” about it.


Why? Is it just that difficult for us to accept that someone so influential can also be queer?



i kind of want to start blogging again

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this, but the note on my phone says “I want to start blogging again – about [name of ex], about music friends, and shyness.”

I’ve got “This Town” by Niall Horan in the background and I’m ready to start.

I started crying in public a few days ago. Not the first time but hopefully the last. It was the culmination of a terrible week. I blamed it on a classmate of mine, how they had been mean to me for so long and how I couldn’t take it anymore.

I have defined myself by anxiety and stress and depression for too long. I wore that like a badge of honor. I lashed out at people and then called it anxiety. I talked too loudly and too long about my anxiety and food allergies and illness.

It was a feeble attempt to make connections, while also pushing people away. I believed that if they couldn’t take it, then it was something wrong with them.

What does this have to do with music, you ask? Well, I had a friend breakup a couple of weeks ago. I called him my music friend. I clung to that because I had been waiting for so long to find someone who gets music the exact same way that I do.

So I closed myself off and turned it into an obsession. And then when I told him that he broke my heart, he ran away. And I blamed it on him, and I blamed it on myself.

I saw The Jesus and Mary Chain live for the second time last week. It hit me again that Jim Reid uses his shyness as power. His stage presence is lanky and awkward, but he makes it work so completely that it’s not awkward anymore. You lose yourself in the music, just like he does.

I told the story about being an introvert long past the point it stopped being true. I’ve slowly learned to define myself in other ways besides just being shy, to use it in the same way Jim Reid uses it: that that’s just who he is, fuck all. Not even aggressively, either, despite the music and the message of his band. I guess his whole aesthetic is being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It reminds me that there’s nothing to prove. You don’t have to be aggressive about your demons, just leave them be.

So why can’t I let go?

My Own Musical Backgrounds

I recently posted about musical backgrounds and why we make the music we do – or listen to the music we choose to listen to.

I’ve talked about who my favorite bands are before. But why are they my favorites? When I examine bands like Translator (a new discovery – post forthcoming), the Replacements, the Chain, even the Who, a few themes emerge:

*80s sound. I seem to like synthesizers and the atmospheric noise of this decade. (This is also why I like bands like The Limousines, who’ve adopted this sound with a modern twist.)

*Introspective lyrics. I’m an introvert so I like bands that think this way, too. Of course, the Chain are the kings of this (and started the shoegaze genre itself, which is all about introspection), but Translator gets in on the action as well: “My heart has a mind of its own.” That lyric gets me every time.

*With introspective lyrics also comes a darker sound. Again, the Chain, but I also listen to Placebo from time to time, and I do like grunge as well. I think the whole “darker sound” of my favorite bands feeds into my, ahem, tendency for self-indulgent angst. Whoops!

What themes do you notice from bands you like to listen to?

Musical Backgrounds

Music will always be a product of where you come from. For example, JAMC yells about “dying by the river of disease,” and Bruce Springsteen sings about “trouble in the heartland.”

So just as the Chain’s music will always be influenced by living in a crappy suburb in Scotland, and Bruce Springsteen’s music will always be influenced by….living in a crappy suburb in New Jersey, our individual backgrounds inform what we listen to. For instance, a lot of straight white nerdy guys listen to Elvis Costello, because that’s who Elvis Costello is. That’s also who tends to listen to the Smiths – those guys, and the women who love them.

And then there are musicians who transcend demographics: your Michael Jacksons, your Aretha Franklins, your Adeles. (Interestingly, Michael Jackson was singing white pop, and Adele is singing “blue-eyed soul.” When does cross-demographic appeal become appropriation, and when is it just good music?)

I don’t have a good answer for that. What I’m thinking about right now is why we listen to the music we choose to listen to. Surely it’s a combination of emotion and marketing, but I think that there may be something deeper at work. Identification, perhaps. We choose music because it resonates with us. Either it describes what we’re feeling, better than we ever could, or we use music to set the tone for our world.

So that’s why I put on “Pure Morning” when I’m feeling angsty, or “Roar” when I’m feeling stereotypically girly and on top of things. Listening to those songs, I think, yeah, that’s exactly right.

Monthly Obsessions: January 2016

Every month I keep track of the songs I listen to. I thought I would start turning that into a playlist and share it with you.

This month’s tracklist is incredibly diverse: you’ve got everything from Bruce Springsteen to Zayn Malik. I rediscovered old favorites (Cults!) and, weirdly enough, had “She Blinded Me With Science” on repeat.

Spotify doesn’t allow me to embed anymore, womp womp, but you can listen here and follow me!