As a teenager, I wasn’t sure if I should listen to Lou Reed – or his band, The Velvet Underground. I wasn’t sure whether I could handle the drone of “Venus in Furs” or fuzzy, buzzy epic “Sister Ray.” Of course, the tunes that once intimidated me now seem almost quaint or folky in spots. They’re still songs about junkies and BDSM, but everything eventually becomes the music of your mom and dad’s generation.
Despite his rep, Lou Reed also made some very poppy music in his career. This is stuff that’s not going to show up on any of his greatest hits collections – and there are 17 of them according to Wikipedia. “The Original Wrapper” is off Reed’s 1986 album “Mistrial,” which I owned on cassette and most likely bought at the long-gone Streetside Records in Columbia, MO. I’m not sure if Lou is genuinely trying to musically stretch here or if he’s just half-heartedly jumping on the rap train – probably both.
There are two versions of “The Original Wrapper” – the fast one that was on the album and a slower version that was the single, allegedly so listeners could keep up better. The one with a music video is the single, directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński. He also directed Art of Noise’s “Close (to the Edit)” and you’ll spot the stylistic similarities.
You can write off “The Original Wrapper” as a stylistic miss, but did you remember that Lou Reed recorded a cover of “Soul Man” with Sam Moore, half of Sam & Dave? BTW, David “Dave” Prater was still alive at the time, but he and Moore were touring separately. This version of “Soul Man” was from the 1986 movie of the same name, the one that no one (reasonably) wants to talk about anymore. At least, Lou looks like he’s having fun.
Just to show I’m not crapping on Lou, let’s close out with a track off 1989’s “New York,” the album that helped fans forget about “Soul Man” and that Honda scooter commercial. Here’s two versions of “Dirty Blvd.” First, the one that went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. Then, the live version Lou Reed did on stage with David Bowie for Bowie’s 50th birthday.