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Call of the Wild Side

New book tracks Lou Reed's savage journey

Photo of Lou Reed

Lou Reed's walk on the wild side began long before the punk pioneer thrashed and sneered his way to stardom.

"Lou Reed: A Life," a new biography by veteran Rolling Stone contributor Anthony DeCurtis, recounts Reed's turbulent childhood and "secret life" in "the crotch of Long Island." Growing up near Jones Beach in the 1950s, Reed was the kid who knew where to score marijuana and hung out in a gay and lesbian bar near Hofstra University. His parents attempted to "cure" him of bisexuality by authorizing electroshock treatments at 17.

Reed's anger would stoke his personality for the rest of his life. (He died of liver disease in 2013 at 71). His obsession with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll fueled his music with the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, including songs like "Walk on the Wild Side," "Sweet Jane" and "Heroin."

DeCurtis' sweeping 500-page bio has already wowed other rock titans. Bono sings the praises of "this sublime and subtle book," noting that DeCurtis is "one of the few music critics Lou Reed read and whose company he enjoyed."

"Read this book," says R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, "and explore the f*cking genius that was Lou Reed."

Early reviews are equally enthusiastic. "Lou Reed: A Life," says one critic,"is easily the richest and most nuanced depiction of Reed ever written."

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images