(Note: Only after posting the last entry did it occur to me that if a) “Your Love” is about Shelley, and b) Lou met Shelley in 1961, then it probably is from 1962 after all. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.)

Like the Jades’ single, these lost recordings pair a happy, pro-love song with a cautionary one about romance’s pitfalls. The latter in this case is called “Merry Go Round”:


Musically, this is a step up from Lou’s previous compositions, with an anarchic feel and an intricate start/stop structure. But the words are pretty cookie-cutter:

I walk you home yeah every day from school
But still you treat me like I was a fool
Merry Go ’Round
Woh-oh, you got me goin’ upside down

You said you’d never date another boy
But still you treat me like I was a toy
Merry Go ’Round
Woh-oh, you got me goin’ upside down

You said that we would never part
But babe, you went and broke my heart
You wind me up and then you put me down
They’re laughin’ at me all over town
Merry Go ’Round

Woh-oh, stop your foolin’ don’t go round
With [?] and love me so
My little Merry Go ’Round

You said that we would never part
Hey babe, you went and broke my heart
You wind me up and then you put me down
They’re laughin’ at me, woh, all over town
Merry Go ’Round

Woh-oh, stop your foolin’ around
Woh, with [?] and love me so
My little Merry Go ’Round
Woh-oh, hey, Merry Go ’Round
You got me goin’ upside down
Hey-hey-hey, Merry Go ’Round

Not exactly Shakespeare is it? You’d hardly know it was the work of one of the founders of the Syracuse literary magazine Lonely Woman Quarterly. Named after an Ornette Coleman song, the LWQ provided a means for Lou and his friends to tweak the school authorities by printing outrageous, provocative material. Lou began the first issue thusly:

He’d always found the idea of copulation distasteful, especially when applied to his own origins. His mother wouldn’t do that. No. No, she wouldn’t.

That issue also, according to Aidan Levy, included an untitled “morning-after tale of debauchery… [that] contains a set of guidelines adapted from the ‘Hebraic Vision,’ Lou’s collegial vision of the Ten Commandments”:

  1. How can you deviate if there’s no norm and that’s half the fun
  2. Be Victorian dear friend and attack the boxlike structure
  3. Metamorphisize [sic] in extenuating circumstances
  4. Feel the joy of guilt
  5. Break with the tintinabulary1logic of your mind
  6. Enter the chaos
  7. Be strong and truthful without pretensions
  8. Disbelieve
  9. I’m the worst of the worst, the phoniest of the phony, the weakest of the weak, the strongest of the strong, setting up new settings for the old, new mores for the sacrosanct

Oh, if only there was a recording of that in Lou’s voice… well, I can imagine it, and that’s close enough.

Levy continues:

The second issue of LWQ, printed on May 23, 1962 [60 years ago today!], featured two contributions from Lou: “Mr. Lockwood’s Pool,” a macabre fantasy and sexual dalliance with a centaur written in the style of Charlotte Brontë, and “Michael Kogan — Syracuse’s Miss Branding,” a withering critique of the head of [campus organization] Young Americans for Freedom.

You can see some scans of that issue here. If you just want to get the flavor of the writing, here’s the first little bit of each, complete with Lou’s own misspellings:

Mr. Lockwood’s Pool by Lewis Reed
If you close your eyes, I’ll tell you a story. Yesterday, being the first, I tool my walk, constitutional you know, and placed myself on the path that originates at Friendly’s barn and later diverges at the meadow and Lockwood Forest. Mr. Lockwood, you’ll remember being that cranky, sallow creature with philanthropic overtones, many years ago. The walk through the forest is excrutiatingly beautiful, particularly for one whose sojourns are so infrequent and dependant on the seasons. But this it was lovely, the melange of flower petals, especially the yellows, that particular hue catching my eye from all the rest, and drawing it straight to the bud, all the flowers, the vegetation and trees, shading the crooked narrow path in a curved chapel while tread over roots, through branches and berries, the silence almost overwhelming, and finally arrived at the most beautiful lake I think I have ever seen in this man’s world.

Michael Kogan—Syracuse’s Miss Branding by Luis Reed
Michael Kogan, the reptillian treasurer of the Young Democrats, recently asserted his obese shape to the extent of slithering on all fours into the waiting arms of the conservitive bastillion, otherwise modestly titled the Young Americans for Freedom — or more appropiatly YAF. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Kogan a brief description may be necessary to distinguish him from the other fauna which can be seen preening itself on the university quad. The seventeen year old elder statesman, nouveau riche attache case in hand, pleated trousers ala Wolsley flapping in the breeze, can be seen at the most any hour at the Western Union desk of the corner store where, American flag placed neatly up his rectum, he can be heard issuing various ultimatums and platitudes to the distraught clerk to deliver immediately his maligned position on the World, Religion, Morality, Yale, and Thou, to those simpering turncoat radicals hovering in Maxwell.

Maybe he wasn’t a great writer yet — though “American flag placed neatly up his rectum” is a phrase to conjure with — and certainly no stickler for details. I imagine these being typed in a mad headlong rush somewhere in the wee hours, no time for corrections or dictionaries. But you can see the potential.

Those pieces date from the end of Lou’s sophomore year. In his junior year he would meet a major influence: Delmore Schwartz, known to VU fans as the dedicatee of “European Son,” who had just been hired to teach at Syracuse. At one time Schwartz had been one of America’s most promising young writers; by the time he came to Syracuse he was widely considered a has-been who drank too much and hovered on the brink of insanity. But he still cut a charismatic figure and gave spellbinding lectures, and could often be found holding court in the campus watering hole. Lou was smitten.

In Reed’s eyes, Schwartz was a rock star, a stature magnified by the relative obscurity of Syracuse — he was genuinely a big fish in a small pond. That he had achieved literary fame while still in his twenties only made him a more attractive figure for Reed; that was precisely the fate he desired for himself. Shelley Albin said that Reed was the first person she had met who “thought like an artist and spoke like an artist”; Schwartz fulfilled that role for Reed. That Schwartz took Reed seriously as a writer intensified the effect he had on him…. Schwartz was a Brooklyn Jew who rose to important artistic heights, and in him Reed read his own destiny. Reed would speak rapturously of Schwartz for the rest of his life. (Anthony DeCurtis, Lou Reed: A Life)

The use of the term “rock star” there is ironic, as Schwartz supposedly once told Shelley Albin, “Your job in life is to be sure that Lou is a writer — and not this crappy rock and roll stuff.”

“Reed always said that Schwartz threatened to come back from the grave and haunt him if he ever sold out and betrayed his literary talent,” according to Anthony DeCurtis. And Delmore didn’t have long to live. For a time Lou became a kind of caretaker, seeing that the older man found his way home from the bar at closing time. But within two years Schwartz would be gone, living on mainly through his influence on Lou Reed. Many years later Lou would write a tribute called “O Delmore how I miss you”; it begins like this:

O Delmore how I miss you. You inspired me to write. You were the greatest man I ever met. You could capture the deepest emotions in the simplest language. Your titles were more than enough to raise the muse of fire on my neck. You were a genius. Doomed.

You can read the whole thing here.

So did Lou ever sell out and put himself in line for a haunting? At times, sure; over the course of a long and varied career he occasionally chased commercial success. (One thinks of the tragic “The Original Wrapper.”) But on the whole, rather than choose between literature and rock’n’roll he sought to fuse the two, and was pretty successful at doing it.

And wow, this thing has gotten long. Probably we should, em, wrap it up for now. But I want to leave you with one last thing: Lou called Delmore Schwartz’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” “the greatest short story ever written,” and at some point — it’s not clear when — he made a recording of himself reading it. This is longish, so I recommend you sit down, put your feet up, close your eyes, and let Uncle Lou tell you a story.