LOU REED – ” Magic And Loss ” Released 14th January 1992

Posted: January 15, 2017 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Lou Reed had been in mourning for the past few years at least when it came to his albums. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the middle-aged rocker had delivered an epitaph for the Big Apple New York and a tribute to the late Andy Warhol “Songs For Drella”, created in collaboration with his old Velvets band mate John Cale.

When he began work on his 16th studio album in 1991, Lou Reed didn’t plan on continuing to sift his music through a black veil. But life or, perhaps, death had other plans.

“I was originally going to write an album about magic … the desire for magic in life … the magic of transformation … the idea of a man turning into a bird,”   said Reed  “But my two friends died during this time and I wrote ‘What’s Good’ and that started the other songs, not necessarily in order you find them on the album. It was painful to write, but it was obvious what it was about. All I had to do was look at that line, ‘What good is cancer in April,’ and I knew.”

As in “Power and Glory – The Situation,” on Lou’s “Magic and Loss” album, so is “Sword of Damocles,” which discusses how death can dangle precariously that determines life and death, due to treatments for cancer. Sometimes, what is intended to save can kill. Even miracles can be nothing more than crapshoots.
Lou took an ancient legend, and wove it into the gist of the song, in how a servant of the King was granted all the power of the kingdom for one day.
He could throw all the banquets,and parties he wanted, that included included extravagant pomp. He also had the power to grant life and death. Then he noticed that razor sharp sword hovering over his head, that was held in place with a single strand of horsehair. What if others craved his power and tried to take it away from him? All of a sudden, he saw the peril that power can bring . . . Such is the power of some treatments intended to save, and yes, they often do, but many times they don’t, because the “horsehair” snaps.
Most of it is about his dear friend Doc Pomus.
Who else inspired this song is up for debate? I used to think it was “Rotten Rita,” but found out it that is not a fact. Maybe he heard a rumour that she had passed. What’s really important though, is the theme addressed.

So the songwriter combined the two themes on “Magic and Loss”, eventually discovering a balance between the enchanting wonders of life and the fragile mortality of human beings. Or, as Reed intones on the final, title track, “There’s a bit of magic in everything and then some loss to even things out.”

Reed suggests loss in the lyrics of these dozen songs via hospital visits, tubes in arms and defunct phone numbers. The newly christened elder statesman draws on his familiar deadpan poetry to grieve for his friends: legendary songwriter Doc Pomus and Warhol “Factory” pal Rotten Rita. The music on Magic and Loss is often as unadorned as Reed’s delivery, riding chugging guitars and simple percussion, with a hint of magic to be found in bendy bass turns and the occasional, ragged freakout.

“I just hope it doesn’t start getting thought of as this terrible down death album, because that’s not at all what I mean by it,” the rock legend said. “I think of it as a really positive album, because the loss is transformed magically into something else. The way these two people face these things. They were giants throughout their lives and they were giants in these situations also, and a lot can be learned from them. I was very lucky to know them through all of it.”

Despite its perception as a difficult album, “Magic and Loss” became one of Reed’s most successful albums after it was released on January. 14th, 1992. Greeted with warm, even effusive, reviews from many rock writers, the record became his highest-charting U.K. LP (No. 6) and boasted the U.S. No. 1 Modern Rock Tracks single “What’s Good.” The praise and success shocked Reed.

“Astonished would cover it. It’s very strange,” said Lou after the album came out. “In a sense it’s my dream album, because everything finally came together to where the album is finally fully realized. I got it to do what I wanted it to do, but commercial thoughts never entered into it, so I’m just stunned.”

“Between two Aprils I lost two friends/Between two Aprils magic and loss…”.

The short inscription Lou Reed wrote in the liner notes to his 1992 album “Magic and Loss” is the backdrop to one of the most inspired albums of his career. At the end of the album credits he wrote: “This album is dedicated to Doc and especially to Rita”. While he preferred to keep the identity of Rita away from the public (“Rita wouldn’t have wanted to be known. I was a very lucky person to know her”), he was open about his recent friendship with legendary songwriter Doc Pomus who died in 1991. “Magic and Loss” captures the pain and emotions that Reed felt as his friends were dying. This is the story of the album, the musicians who influenced and created it and most importantly, the amazing songs Reed wrote as a healing process from the death of his friends.

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