"Sweet, Wild and Vicious: Listening To Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground" Book Coming Soon

Article Contributed by Big Hassle Media | Published on Thursday, March 21, 2024

From the time he began recording with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s until his death in 2013, Lou Reed released nearly 50 original albums. In Sweet, Wild and Vicious: Listening to Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, out April 19 via Trouser Press Books, Jim Higgins delves into each one, with descriptions, details, analysis and appraisals that will amplify and expand fans’ understanding and appreciation of them.

This listener's guide is personal as well as definitive, a thoughtful consideration of Reed's entire career from the perspective of a devoted follower able to separate the highs from the lows. The paperback is available for pre-order directly from the Trouser Press Books website, and the eBook via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and elsewhere.


From Sweet, Wild and Vicious:

"After two albums (Songs for Drella and Magic and Loss) permeated with death and dying, on Set the Twilight Reeling Lou Reed plugged in, turned up the guitar and returned to his childhood with 'Egg Cream,' a stunning ode to the New York fountain drink made from seltzer, milk and U-Bet chocolate syrup. Over a bed of noisy rhythm guitar, Reed rhapsodizes about his boyhood favorite, which tasted just like silk. A man notorious for recounting illicit thrills of methamphetamine and heroin surprised everyone with this unexpected tribute to prepubescent pleasure. But this is Lou Reed, not the Wiggles: Becky’s wondrous egg creams helped him deal with knife battles and 'kids pissing in the street.' If asked to cast my ballot, 'Egg Cream' is the last great Lou Reed song.

"Reed switched gears and rhythm sections for this album, bringing back lyrical bassist Fernando Saunders and hiring drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith, who had played extended stints with the Jan Hammer Group and Serge Gainsbourg. Smith told Modern Drummer magazine he got the call because Reed had heard he was comfortable with electronics. In tandem with the versatile Saunders, Smith could play the hard rock stuff that was Reed's prime vocabulary but could also snap into a funkier groove. He's also a fun guy to watch.

"YouTube has video of Reed, Saunders, Smith and guitarist Mike Rathke performing 'Egg Cream' on VH1’s Hard Rock Live series. It opens with green-room chatter among the four musicians, saxophonist David Sanborn and performance artist Laurie Anderson, then Reed’s new paramour and later his third wife. Dedicated to Anderson, many songs on Set the Twilight Reeling are about romance — desired, feared and thwarted. In spots it has the giddy nervous energy of a guy newly in love."

Jim Higgins is arts and books editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a former pop music and jazz critic for the Milwaukee Sentinel. He is a two-time winner of the Wisconsin Area Music Industry award for music journalist of the year and twice won the Sentinel staff-voted award for humor writing. Like Andy Warhol, he is a native of Pittsburgh.

Ira Robbins of Trouser Press Books says, “Jim Higgins takes the reader on a long walk through one of the most complicated, controversial and influential of rock oeuvres in terms that are, in turn, scholarly, hip, informative and personal. The unstated goal of books like this is to make you go back and listen anew to records you thought you knew front to back; Sweet, Wild and Vicious achieves that and more.”

Advance praise for Sweet, Wild and Vicious:

Greg Kot, Sound Opinions co-host:

I didn’t think we needed another book on Lou Reed or the Velvet Underground until I read Sweet, Wild and Vicious. A voracious listener and gifted writer, Jim Higgins contextualizes Reed's life and aesthetic in a way that illuminates the world he created between the headphones. His recordings — by turns brilliant, confounding and daring — finally get the book they deserve. It’s nothing less than an essential addition to our understanding and appreciation of Reed/Velvets.

Victor DeLorenzo, founding member of the Violent Femmes:

I have been aware of and absolutely mystified by the glorious VU since I was 16 years old. Jim Higgins has written a book that celebrates this magical group of musicians and then proceeds to follow the many enigmas that is Lou Reed. (I had the pleasure to meet them all and record and play live with Moe and Sterling.) Jim presents a very good take on Lou, and I'm sure the audience that adores Mr. Reed will enjoy the way Jim listens and responds to the recordings.

Elizabeth Nelson, singer-songwriter, the Paranoid Style:

Replete with gimlet-eyed observations and a true fan's infectious enthusiasm, Jim Higgins' survey of Lou Reed's solo years is simultaneously a wild ride and a scholarly account of a complex and legendary canon. Two hundred and fifty-five pages of street hassles, dance crazes, and brilliant new sensations. Bold and essential.

Tom Moon (author of the NY Times bestseller 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die):

Jim Higgins begins with a disclaimer: "I have no unifying theory of Lou Reed to sell you." Be glad about that! As fits his subject, Higgins engages at street level, weaving carefully researched details, sharp original descriptions of the music and reactions from artists (and tastemakers) into a thorough exploration of the sonic realms this icon visited — and then owned.

Musician Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, the Baseball Project, solo):

Jim Higgins does a heroic job of navigating the choppy and complicated waters of Lou Reed’s recorded history, putting his spin on the good, the bad and the ugly contained in the grooves. Higgins takes no prisoners—you may not always agree with his take but he always makes a good, informative, thoughtful consideration and this book will make you want to go back and listen to the records one more time with fresh ears—and ain’t that what it’s all about?

Tammy Faye Starlite (singer, performer, Nico channeler):

Jim Higgins gives such precise details about lyrics I love — “Heroin,” “Street Hassle,” “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim” — and while underlining the contradictions and complexities of Lou Reed’s brilliance and persona(e), he accepts and embraces the totality of the artist with profound awe. I got chills reading about songs that, through Higgins’s words, I vividly heard echoing in the lost halls of my heart. A must-have for Lou Reed fans.