“And it was all right. And it was all right.”
A life saved by rock and roll. It’s a song that’s been written a hundred times over at this point. But when Lou Reed did it in 1970, it very well could have been the first of its kind. Ziggy Stardust was still two years away and while Rock and Roll by The Velvet Underground isn’t as operatic in scope as something like Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide, it is as emotionally aware of the redemptive powers of rock music. Featuring a pumped up vocal by Reed and a guitar solo at the center quite unusual to the band, this was the Velvet’s attempt at a hit. But even commercial pretensions can’t rob it of the soulful sincerity that Reed pours into it. Even when everything’s falling apart, even when the world is against you, “you could just dance to a rock and roll station,” and all of that turmoil and fear would fall away. Lou Reed believed this. By the end of the song, the spirit is cascading out of him. It’s raucous but reassuring. There is a warmth in the frenzy, as if the tremulous music is actually surrounding you. It’s Reed’s message to every lonely, weird kid out there listening to the radio: there are others out there, and it’s going to be all right.