Phoenix's Thomas Mars
Lou Reed is a huge deal in France. There was a freedom in his behavior and his music that was appealing to French people – and especially to a teenager. When I was growing up in Versailles, I identified with him even more than I did with Iggy Pop or David Bowie. His songs were like little jewels, perfect for a kid to digest. They had everything: all the anxiety and darkness, and all the sweetness, too. That's what I loved. I started listening to the sweet songs first: "Pale Blue Eyes," "Ocean," "New Age." Later, I discovered "Street Hustle," and it was like a miracle. I'd play it over and over, and I never got bored. He created this universe that I wanted to be part of.
One of my favorite quotes is from the painter Ed Ruscha: "Good art should elicit a response of 'Huh?. . .Wow!'" That's what I got from the Velvet Underground, from the first time I saw the banana on their record cover when I was a kid. And that's what Lou Reed's live shows were like. They were art projects. Each time he came onstage, it was a real gamble, you know? He wasn't scared of not giving a crowd what they wanted. You had to pass that first question – that first "Huh?" – to be part of the club. I was so amazed by that. He was a tremendous guitar player, but he didn't show it; he made it feel like it was nothing. He broke all the codes, everything that a rock band was supposed to do. You felt like he could do anything, and it would be right.