Not everything in our lives has to be ‘guitar heros’ my friends; we also have to talk about immeasurable artists who, without being virtuoso guitarists, have changed our lives through the genius of their songs with a guitar on their backs downloading chords, melodies, and in the case of today’s protagonist, authentic nocturnal, bohemian and libertine poetry. We’re talking today about a legend that smells of smoke and excesses: Lou Reed.
As the leader of one of the most influential bands in Rock history, the Velvet Underground, we can see Lou Reed in the late 60s almost always with the same guitar: the Gretsch Country Gentleman, which appears with him in nearly all the photos we have managed to see from his performances and recordings with Velvet. Besides, that guitar, and many he would use later, was plugged into an antique Fender Tweed Deluxe from the 50s that he used until well into the 90s.
Although it’s true that we can see him playing, on many occasions, regular conventional guitars from this section like the Fender Telecaster or the Epiphone Rivera with which he appears on the cover of Transformer, it is well known by everyone that since the 70s Lou Reed has always been looking for new sounds which led him to use guitars built specially for him under his instructions. Artesans like Carl Thompson, Steve Klein, Pete Cornish or Noah Guitars were put in charge of making his guitars and gear to measure according to his demands. In fact, specifically among his pedals, we can only recognise some ‘earthly’ ones like the Electro Harmonix POG.
Oddly enough, one of the ‘conventional’ companies that has been with him all his life are the Soldano amps, a brand linked to the more aggressive type of music that we can expect from Lou Reed, but he has used many models of the brand throughout the years. However, at the same time he is able to sound marvelously with just an acoustic plugged into an electric guitar amp like the Tone King.
In addition, it seems that good ol’ Lou only pounds the guitar to get power chords and riffs, as in the immortal Sweet Jane, he’s a guy who has been careful with his tone and sound since he began his career, searching for the perfect saturation and feedback to match the sound of John Cale’s viola or Sterling Morrison’s guitar.
Different gear for a guy who realised that the beat generation didn’t have a spokesman among the new pop music from the late 60s, and decided to add that discourse to rock which he made his own forever and turned him into a kind of lowdown poet. He created from New York a darkness that overshadowed the omnipresent ‘flower power’, freelove, happy music that came from the west coast... and he did it with just one electric guitar.