The author called American rock band Weezer to task for tweeting an obligatory "R.I.P., you were a huge influence" tweet about Lou Reed's death. The author added : "Yes, Reed's primary accomplishment: having influenced early Weezer."
I'm not a big Weezer fan but I thought it was a bit unfair to single them out for chiming in with their admiration for Lou Reed and his music, so I wrote: "I guess some ppl think it's their job to judge which bands deserve to have been influenced by Lou Reed."
Like I said, I was subtweeting. I didn't expect the author to respond, but he did (and he apologized to Weezer, so rest easy), and we had a little conversation about influence. His argument was : "It's one (good) thing to be influenced & to acknowledge that. It's another to frame an artist's achievement as having led to you."
Which, yes, I agree that doing that is egotistical and as he stated, narcissistic. Yet, I don't think simply saying "so-and-so influenced me" is narcissistic. The impulse to declare an influence after an artist's death is a way to share a loss and to assert oneself as a fan. It's homage. When an artist dies, it's touching to see how many people were changed by the art. I like to think that when a musician says Lou Reed was an influence they put themselves back into the role of fan and music lover and aren't trying to make it all about them.
When I joined Early Spring (when we were a two piece and it wasn't clear whether I'd play bass or drums) my band mate suggested I listen to Velvet Underground records and play along with the bass parts. I eventually became a drummer and haven't touched a bass in years, but when I heard "Sunday Morning" again this summer I was struck by the bass line and had a strong urge to play the bass. That's how musicians evolve, by first playing other people's music. The influence is that direct--it's note by note until you find your own musical voice.
My favorite memory about one musician acknowledging another's influence is the time I saw Elastica play at the Bowery Ballroom. Just as Justine Frischmann hit the stage, "Road Runner" was playing over the PA and she sang along (and changed the lyrics) singing, "Radio on/ Psycho killer/ Qu'est Que C'est / I'm obsessed with Wire" Which was a playful acknowledgment of the influence that had hounded the band early on in their career--the homage to (some said theft of) Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba". But so what? A lot of people got turned onto Wire after they heard that Elastica record.
And let's not forget that Lou Reed and John Cale cut fake teen trend records for Pickwick Records. Let's do the Ostrich. I hear it's all the rage.
This afternoon I pulled my earphones out (I was listening the the 1st Velvets record) to hear "Sister Ray" playing over the cafe speakers. I asked the barista if they were going to play the entire song (it is long and noisy at 14 minutes plus) and he said, "We're playing the entire discography." Then he and his co-worker wondered if Metal Machine Music was on spotify. If they found it, I hope they don't get fired for playing it.