Lou Reed: Families (1979)

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Lou Reed: Families (1979)

Lou Reed probably never struck you as having a sentimental streak, but this song (from his album The Bells) is as nakedly autobiographical and pained as John Lennon's Mother.

It is the sound of a son who knows he has disappointed the family but equally realises there is no way back.

Interesting too is the tone of regret and sadness at what has been lost, and the line changes from "I don't get home much anymore" to "I don't think I'll be coming home anymore".

At this time Reed, still on multiple drugs, had separated from his transvestite lover Rachel and had taken up with 22-year old stripper Sylvia Morales whom he had met at an S&M group. She, by weird coincidence, was seeing his former Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale. (Reed and Morales married on Valentine's Day 1980)

He recorded The Bells in Germany (he didn't want to go there apparently) and although he hailed it, the public and his record company were indifferent. The album stalled well below the top 100 and to be fair it is very patchy.

But the title track (which was inspired by an Edgar Allen Poe poem and features jazz trumpeter Don Cherry) is among one of his best -- and then there is Families which seemed to go largely unnoticed at the time.

Reed aches with pain and regret and the final lines to the dirge-like and funereal pace seem to sum it up: "Families that live out in the suburbs often make each other cry".

One of Reed's finest, most personally revealing, songs. 

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Greg Fleming - Mar 29, 2010

Yes - one of my fave Lou reed tracks too, from a very under-rated record. On the original vinyl this came with an insert full of press clippings. In one of them Lou says something -"if you can't play jazz and you can't play rock'n'roll you put the two together and you really got something."

All Through The Night, City Lights and Stupid Man are also splendid.
The other much underestimated LR 70s album is the life-as-performance-art - Take No Prisoners - inspired, embarrassing , self-indulgent, incandescent - sometimes all at once, containing staggering versions of Berlin, Coney Island Baby and Street Hassle.

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