Monday, June 23, 2008

Lou Reed's Baton Rouge

I've just listened to Lou Reed's 2000 album Ecstacy three times in a row while doing some tedious computer stuff and have this to say on it:
  1. Lou Reed really is that good. Some times I think he's overblown and my interest in him is more about trying to bring secondary interests to the forefront.
  2. And half the time he is overblown; he does a great record followed by a tepid one with remarkable consistency.
  3. Esctasy is a great record, up there with New York and Magic and Loss
  4. But the real thing I want to know is: what is the back story behind the song "Baton Rouge"
  5. Was his first wife Sylvia (nee Morales) from here?
  6. I think this album is largely about her, looking at things that went wrong, exorcising his anger at her and himself, and coming into his relationship with Laurie Anderson.
  7. Does he mean a marching band? If so, does that mean that Lou Reed once went to an LSU game as a teenager for some reason, a family vacation from Long Island?
  8. And he fell in love with a local girl, making time in the back of car until they were ripped apart by cruel circumstance? And that all came crashing back to him at the dissolution of his own marriage?
  9. Or is Baton Rouge a River Styx for rockstars, what with Lynyrd Skynyrd and all, and he is using it as some obscure allegory?
  10. Whatever it is, its one of the lovelier songs in his late albums, lyrically and musically, with the strings rushing in over "so helpless so helpless"
  11. And with time number three, I got these goddamn numbers on this report to add up and thereby feel a little less helpless in the grand scheme of things.
Lou Reed - "Baton Rouge"

When I think of you baton rouge
I think of a mariachi band
I think of sixteen and a crisp green football field
I think of a girl I never had

When I think of you baton rouge
I think of a back seat in a car
Windows are foggy and so are we
as the police asked for our I.D.

So helpless
so helpless

Ooohhh, so helpless
ooohhh, so helpless
Ooohhh, so helpless
so helpless

Well I once had a car lost it in a divorce
the judge was a woman of course
She said give her the car and the house and your taste
or else I set the trial date

So now when I think of you baton rouge
and the deep southern belles with their touch
I wonder where love ends and hate starts to blush
in the fields in the swamps in the rush

In the terra-cotta cobwebs of your mind
when did you start seeing me as a spider spinning web
Of malicious intent and you as poor, poor me
at the fire at the joint, this disinterred and broken mount
in the bedroom in the house where we were unmarried

So helpless, so helpless
so helpless
So helpless, so helpless
so helpless

When was I the villa in your heart
putting the brake on your start
you slapped my face and cried and screamed
that's what marriage came to mean
The bitterest ending of a dream

You wanted children and I did not
was that what it was all about
You might get a laugh when you hear me shout
you might get a laugh when you hear me shout
I wish I had

So helpless, so helpless
so helpless
So helpless, so helpless
so helpless

Sometimes when I think of baton rouge
I see us with two and a half strapping sons
One and a half flushed daughters preparing to marry
and two fat grandsons I can barely carry

Daddy, uncle, family gathered there for grace
a dog in a barbecue pit goes up in space
The dream recedes in the morning with a bad aftertaste
and I'm back in the big city worn from the race of the chase
what a waste

So thanks for the card the announcement of child
and I must say you and Sam look great
Your daughter's gleaming in that -
- white wedding dress with pride
sad to say I could never bring that to you that wide smile

So I try not to think of baton rouge
or of a, of a, of a mariachi band
Or of sixteen and a crisp green football field
and the girl, and the girl I never had

So helpless, so helpless
so helpless
So helpless, so helpless
so helpless


  1. Well,
    That's one Lou Reed song I'm not going to recomend to my dad.

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