Monday, February 7, 2011

'I'll be your Mirror'

My mother thought of Lou Reed as the devil personified while for me, he was a poet who had the ability to translate the darker desires and torments of the soul into music that allowed one somehow to free oneself from the often horrible burden of trying to maintain a happy and courteous disposition in the presence of family and friends irrespective of the anguish that often lay beneath the surface.

It is not only adolescents who experience those 'black nights of the soul', although probably is more difficult for them to deal with it, as experience alone in time teaches us how to cope with tragedy, loss, betrayal and pain. I embraced the music of Lou Reed at a time when I was trying to cope with the rather shocking death of a fiance. In such a situation, one tends to shoulder a self-imposed burden of inadequacy, feeling somehow that one should have been able to change the course of fate to avert death. It may be illogical but it is a common response to the unexpected death of a loved one.

Lou Reed definitely did not speak for me before this loss occurred. The Velvet Underground had been disbanded long before I began to listen to their music. It was only when I experienced the death of a loved one who was my own age that darkness enveloped me and I launched myself on a path of rebellion fueled by despair.
Lou Reed became my voice for the emotions I could not express myself, having been taught that self-loathing, thoughts of suicide and destruction were to be avoided at all costs.

It was during this period that I became enamoured of the 19th Century Decadent and Symbolist Movements as well.

There are those who, with great wisdom, declare that every individual possesses a 'shadow self' and that, coming to terms with the dark side of our nature is the only way to achieve psychic and spiritual balance. My own upbringing was founded on a philosophy of avoidance of darkness in all of its manifestations and a correlation of 'darkness' with 'evil'. Thus my mother's assertion that Lou Reed was the devil personified. Not comprehending or even seeing the deep roots of my pain, she focused on Lou Reed somehow as the bearer of darkness rather than perceiving him correctly as nothing more than a messenger.

Parenthood is not an easy business and I do not hold my Mother responsible for her lack of effective moral support at a time when I desperately needed it. I think the changes in me simply terrified her. Furthermore, how can some one who never allowed herself to see, let alone explore her own shadow self be able to deal with that of her child?

Today, some one posted a link to a performance of 'I'll be your Mirror' on Facebook. The song is by Lou Reed. Nico is the vocalist.

'When you think the night has seen your mind,
And inside you're twisted and unkind;
Let me stand to show that you are blind:
Please put down your hands,
'Cause I see you.'

'I find it hard to believe you don't know
The Beauty that you are:
But if you don't,
Let me be your eyes,
A hand to your darkness,
So you won't be afraid...'

The irony where my Mother's opinion of this is concerned is that she never studied the actual lyrics of any of the songs. 'I'll be your Mirror' actually is a very positive song.

Another great song by Lou Reed:

Sunday morning,
Praise the dawning,
It's just a restless feeling by my side.

Early dawning,
Sunday morning,
It's just the wasted years so close behind.
Watch out, the world's behind you,
There's always some one around you who will call:
'It's nothing at all!'

Sunday morning, and I'm falling,
I've got a feeling I don't want to know.
Early dawning,
Sunday morning,
It's all the streets you crossed not so long ago.
Watch out, the world's behind you,
There's always some one around you who will call:
'It's nothing at all!'

Long before Lou Reed was recognised as a serious American poet, I knew that, however much he might reflect the consciousness of his era, his work would outlast him. Of course, Andy Warhol recognised it instantly and was a patron to the Velvet Underground.

No comments: