WFMU’s Tom Scharpling tweets in realtime about a close encounter with Lou Reed at a Starbucks. Read from bottom.
Thank you very kindly, Edward Ludvigsen!
WFMU’s Tom Scharpling tweets in realtime about a close encounter with Lou Reed at a Starbucks. Read from bottom.
Thank you very kindly, Edward Ludvigsen!
Here’s a reminder of just how cool Lou Reed can be. Consider it a palate cleanser for the shit sandwich that is Lulu.
I think this is from the mid-70s. Anybody know?
Update 11/1: The clip is from Jimi Hendrix directed by Joe Boyd and John Head in 1973. Thanks to DM reader Steve.
Before there was a Velvet Underground, there was Lewis Reed, Lewis Allen Rabinowitz (aka Lou Reed), who in 1962 recorded a couple of self-penned tracks for indie record mogul Brent Shad. “Merry Go Round” and “Your Love” were written a year before Reed’s residency as an in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records.
‘Merry Go Round’ sounds like most teen pop tunes of the era. The only thing that distinguishes it is the unmistakable voice of Lou Reed. Kinda sounds like Dion on white crosses.
Unofficial video for “Frustration” from the Lou Reed/ Metallica album Lulu.
The pain shoots through my body
A sword between my thighs
I wish that I could kill you
But I too love your eyes
You’re feeling less whore but you stimulate
The hatred smolders in your eyes
I’d drop to my knees in a second
To salivate in your thighs
But all I do is fall over
I don’t have the strength I once had
In you and your prickless lover
And his easel in his eyes
I feel the pain creep up my leg
Blood runs from my nose
I puke my guts out at your feet
You’re more man than I
To be dead to have no feeling
To be dry and spermless like a girl
This is NSFW. You’ve been warned.
Here are some 30 second excerpts from all of the tracks on the new Lou Reed/Metallica album Lulu.
What do you think?
Though it’s hard to judge an entire album based on 30 second clips, some of the bits sound to me like the highly amplified rumbling sludge of a lower intestinal tract infection fronted by the guy who works the complaint desk in Hell. Muddle machine music.
Track two, “The View,” is presented in its entirety.
When the 1965-1968 core Velvet Underground lineup of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker reformed for a 1993 European tour, I was excited but worried that a VU reunion couldn’t help but to be a disappointment. I didn’t want to spoil my image of the band, but when the live recordings of the Paris shows (mostly the second evening of a three night stand, a show described by John Cale as a “home run”) was released as Live MCMXCIII, I thought they pulled it off admirably, even if it’s not an album I’d ever think to pull out to play when I felt like listening to the Velvet Underground…
Cale and Reed fell out again during the shows in Europe (which included the Velvets opening for.. U fucking 2?), so a US tour never took place. Fans left distraught to have been shut out of the reunion shows had to satisfy themselves by watching the live concert video taped at L’Olympia. That material is now on YouTube in very good quality. Watch the opening numbers, “Venus in Furs” and “White Light/White Heat,” below:
I was prepared for the worst but nothing quite as bad as the song “The View,” from the upcoming Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration. If this track is indicative of what’s on the rest of the album, it will end up embarrassing everyone involved. This will satisfy no one…not Lou’s fans, not Metallica’s.
As music, it’s intolerably bad, sounding like some hellish noise cooked up in the basement by a 10th rate metal band and their loony uncle and the lyrics read like something scrawled on the back of a goth kid’s composition book. A sample:
I WANT TO SEE YOUR SUICIDE
I WANT TO SEE YOU GIVE IT UP
YOUR LIFE OF REASON
I WANT YOU ON THE FLOOR
AND IN A COFFIN YOUR SOUL SHAKING
I WANT TO HAVE YOU DOUBTING
EVERY MEANING YOU’VE AMASSED
LIKE A FORTUNE
OH THROW IT AWAY
FOR WORSHIP SOMEONE
WHO ACTIVELY DESPISES YOU
As a long suffering Lou Reed fan, I was hoping that my gut feelings that this project was going to be disastrous would be proven wrong. If the rest of the album is as shitty as this track, it could go down in history as one of the most misbegotten musical couplings of all time.
I’m as big a Lou Reed fan as there is, but based on the video below (from the 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show), I’m not sure a Reed/Metallica collaboration is such a hot idea. I’m keeping fingers crossed that what appears to be a marriage made in hell may end up surprising me.
David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine has heard the album and wrote:
The record, not yet titled, features 10 songs composed by Reed with significant arrangement contributions by the band that suggest a raging union of his 1973 noir classic, Berlin, and Metallica’s ‘86 crusher, Master of Puppets.
Fricke’s description confuses me. I’m even less clear as to what the album sounds like then I was before reading it.
And Metallica’s James Hetfield doesn’t help:
Lars and I listened to the stuff,” Hetfield says of Reed’s demos, “and it was like, ‘Wow, this is very different.’ It was scary at first, because the music was so open. But then I thought, ‘This could go anywhere.’ “
Knowing the songs were composed by Reed based on Frank Wedekind’s play Lulu, which was written in 1895, puts this into the category of Reed’s work I generally don’t like: the pretentious and forgettable concept album.
Lou Reed thinks the album is…
... maybe the best thing done by anyone, ever. It could create another planetary system. I’m not joking, and I’m not being egotistical.
We will soon find out on Halloween, the day the album is released.
A strange and totally riveting performance by Lou Reed of “Walk On The Wild Side” at the Olympia Theater in Paris on September 17, 1973.
This clip is not new to Youtube but this version has by far the best sound… and even then it leaves a lot to be desired.
Looking like a junkie mime or proto-type for The Crow, Reed jerks off the mic and lackadaisically swivels his hips like a Times Square hooker while appearing completely in his own world. At the top of the song, Reed could be imagining himself sitting on a street corner on Long Island as a young kid, bobbing his head to “Walk On The Wild Side’s” doo-wop vibe.
Lou had a certain battered beauty at this point in his life. Transformer had been released a year prior to this show and Lou was experiencing phenomenal success in Europe. Never completely comfortable on stage, lacking the slickness of Bowie or manic energy of Iggy, Reed was compellingly awkward in many of his live performances. Without The Velvet Underground to bounce off, he seemed almost frightened at times.
In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the Pop 2 TV program at Le Bataclan, a well-known—and very intimate—Paris venue. It was Cale’s gig originally and he invited Reed and Nico to join him. Reed, who hated rehearsing, spent two days with Cale working out what they were going to do. According to Victor Bockris’ Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.
Both the videotape and just the audio from this show has been heavily bootlegged over the years. A legit CD release happened a few years ago, but it still sounds like a bootleg. A high quality video turned up on various torrent trackers and bootleg blogs after a rebroadcast on French TV a few years ago. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson has!
This is Reed coming off his first solo record and just a few months before he recorded “Walk on the Wild Side” with David Bowie and took on a totally different public—and we can presume, private—persona. This is “Long Island Lou” seen just before Reed’s druggy bisexual alter-ego showed up. Cale is heard doing “Ghost Story” from his Vintage Violence album and Nico looks stunning and happy here singing “Femme Fatale.” It’s before the damage of her drug addiction took its toll on her looks.
One thing worth pointing out here is that during “Berlin” you can see Nico’s face as Reed sings a song which he told her was about her. She might even be hearing it for the first time.
More from the Le Bataclan performance after the jump!
Doc Popular made this sweet animated GIF from photographs he took near the 24th street BART station in SF. of Lou Reed Transformer stencils. I love it!
Below, the individual photographs.
(via Laughing Squid)
Lou Reed and his specialized mullet dispense words of hard-earned street wisdom. You know, for the kids.
Drgz: I stp’d.
U shu’nt strt.
With thanks to Ian Schultz
In June 1993, Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker kicked-off their official (sans Nico, who had died in 1988) Velvet Underground reunion tour with two nights at the Playhouse Theater, in Edinburgh. There had been rumors of a VU reunion for years, and these rumors slowly became real after Reed and Cale had successfully toured with Songs for Drella - their musical collaboration celebrating the life of Andy Warhol.
From their opening gig in Scotland, The Velvet Underground then played London, before taking their show to Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, and Italy, where the tour finished on 9 July. During the tour, they also gave a headline grabbing performance at the Glastonbury Festival, and had a WTF? moment when they supported U2 for five dates.
The VU reunion was so successful that an American tour was planned, and a showcase on MTV Unplugged… was all but booked. However, before any of this happened, Reed and Cale fell out and all plans were shelved. In 1995, Sterling Morrison died. The following year, the VU were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Reed, Cale and Tucker reformed the Velvet Underground for the last time.
This footage is from the Velvet Underground’s performance at the L’Olympia, Paris, in June 1993.
More VU, ‘Femme Fatale’ and ‘Waiting for the Man’, after the jump…
When I was a 10-year-old boy, in 1976, I read a review of Lou Reed’s then new-ish album, Metal Machine Music written by the great Lester Bangs in what was probably the very first issue of CREEM magazine that my innocent, unsuspecting and very religious mother ever bought for me:
When you wake up in the morning with the worst hangover of your life, Metal Machine Music is the best medicine. Because when you first arise you’re probably so fucked (i.e., still drunk) that is doesn’t even really hurt yet (not like it’s going to), so you should put this album on immediately, not only to clear all the crap out of your head, but to prepare you for what’s in store the rest of the day.
Speaking of clearing out crap, I once had this friend who would say, “I take acid at least every two months & JUST BLOW ALL THE BAD SHIT OUTA MY BRAIN!” So I say the same thing about MMM. Except I take it about once a day, like vitamins.
Here’s a link to Bang’s entire essay. As you read it, try to imagine what a precociously deviant 10-year-old kid made of it. Even if I really didn’t know exactly what Bangs was talking about, of course, this sounded like something I really wanted to get in on. The vague promise of some sort of “aural high” or sonic sensory derangement seemed very, very attractive to me, especially since there was virtually no way I was going to be able to get my hands on any real drugs at that age (That would take another two years or so).
As luck—or Satan himself personally intervening on my behalf—would have it, the very next week, I found a copy of Metal Machine Music on 8-track tape for 99 cents in a cut-out bin at a “Hills” department store in my home town of Wheeling, WV (I still have it, it may indeed be the oldest surviving personal possession of mine. I’d never part with it).
Metal Machine Music has been described as sounding like “the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator” by Rolling Stone. The Trouser Press said it was “unlistenable oscillator noise (a description, not a value judgment).” Most people have never even sampled the album and few have listened to it all the way through. Not me! I listened to this sucker over and over and over again with headphones, I might add, in an effort to, I guess, mostly just try to understand it, or to get to the bottom of what Reed was trying to communicate (In my defense, I will remind readers that I was ten at the time).
It’s such a curious beastie, this Metal Machine Music. For a child with rapidly solidifying tastes—by twelve, I promise you was I was an inveterate rock snob—this was a conundrum worthy of further, and deep, investigation, I felt. If Lester Bangs liked it that much, it had to be great, right? (Right?) There was also, as I was saying, the naive notion I had that it might be somehow psychoactive, or aid in blowing all the bad shit out of MY brain. (Here’s another quote from the Bangs piece that I know must’ve piqued my interest: “I have been told that Lou’s recordings, but most specifically this item, have become a kind of secret cult among teenage mental institution inmates all across the nation. I have been told further that those adolescents who have been subjected to electroshock therapy enjoy a particular affinity for MMM, that it reportedly “soothes their nerves,” and is ultimately a kind of anthem.”).
Who the fuck knows WHAT made me listen to the electronic wailing wail of sound that is MMM over and over again at the age of ten? But listen to it I did. Repeatedly.
There is one factor, unique to me I suppose, worth mentioning in this context, that probably made MMM a bit more palatable to me: My father toiled for nearly his entire working life at the central switching office at the C&P Telephone Company (part of the Bell system, before it got broken up in the anti-trust court). On the floor where he worked, there were hundreds of 12 ft high banks of humming and clicking electronic circuitry, I’m talking wall upon wall of this sort of machinery, but it was all “open” and sitting on, and bolted to, metal shelves. There was no casing around much of it to dampen the sound. Think of a library (in terms of how it was physically laid out), but full of the noisy, chattering circuits and switchers that made the old analog telephone system work (This machinery is what was put the old school telephone operators who connected your calls out of business in the 1960s, basically. I’m sure it’s all been 100% replaced by now with a waist-high rack of servers run by a small IT department).
The gear there chattered like robotic cicadas. It also reminded me of the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (audio link), the sci-fi classic often seen on late-night television in the 70s. Precisely because there were so many of these clicking, whirling, industrious little diodes and circuits, they made a particular “music” that wasn’t as harsh sounding as you might expect. It actually sounded kind of cool. Had I not had the experience of spending so much of my childhood in that office, I’m sure that MMM would have been much harder for me to take. The point of this digression is that I had some sort of a reference point that made MMM sound much less foreign to my ears than it would have otherwise.
Have you, dear reader, ever actually heard MMM, yourself? Most people haven’t, but then again, where would they have heard it? It was probably never played on the radio (except by smart-ass college DJs), probably has never been played at a discotheque (except by a particularly spiteful DJ) and unless the host wants to clear the place out, it’s probably never been played for any other reason at a party, either.
Here’s an excerpt. Turn it up, I dare you:
Perhaps the best way to approach MMM as a listener is to simply take Lou Reed himself at his word about the project, from the original liner notes. In them, he spells out quite openly what what MMM is supposed to be, and what his goals were for the piece, but few reviewers or fans at the time would have had ANY idea of what he was talking about. Try this on for size:
“Passion—REALISM—realism was the key. The records were letters. Real letters from me to certain other people. Who had and still have basically, no music, be it verbal or instrumental to listen to. One of the peripheral effects typically distorted was what was to be known as heavy metal rock. In Reality it was of course diffuse, obtuse, weak, boring and ultimately an embarrassment. This record is not for parties/dancing/background romance. This is what I ment by “real” rock, about “real” things. No one I know has listened to it all the way through including myself. It is not meant to be. Start any place you like. Symmetry, mathematical precision, obsessive and detailed accuracy and the vast advantage one has over “modern electronic composers.” They, with neither sense of time, melody or emotion, manipulated or no. It’s for a certain time and place of mind. It is the only recorded work I know of seriously done as well as possible as a gift, if one could call it that, from a part of certain head to a few others. Most of you won’t like this and I don’t blame you at all. It’s not meant for you. At the very least I made it so I had something to listen to. Certainly Misunderstood: Power to Consume (how Bathetic): an idea done respectfully, intelligently, sympathetically and graciously, always with concentration on the first and formost goal. For that matter, off the record, I love and adore it. I’m sorry, but not especially, if it turns you off.
One record for us and it. I’d harbored hope that the intelligence that once inhabited novels or films would ingest rock, I was, perhaps, wrong. This is the reason Sally Can’t Dance—your Rock n Roll Animal. More than a decent try, but hard for us to do badly. Wrong media, unquestionably. This is not meant fo the market. The agreement one makes with “speed”. A specific acknowlegment. A to say the least, very limited market. Rock n Roll Animal makes this possible, funnily enough. The misrepresentation succeeds to the point of making possible the appearance of the progenitor. For those for whom the needle is no more than a toothbrush. Professionals, no sniffers please, don’t confuse superiority (no competition) with violence, power or the iustifications. The Tacit speed agreement with Self. We did not start World War I, II or III. Or the Bay of Pigs, for that Matter. Whenever. As way of disclaimer. I am forced to say that, due to stimulation of various centers (remember OOOOHHHMMM, etc.), the possible negative contraindications must be pointed out. A record has to, of all things Anyway, hypertense people, etc. possibility of epilepsy (petite mal), psychic motor disorders, etc… etc… etc.
My week beats your year.”—Lou Reed
In prose that would be quite obtuse to most people, but plain enough perhaps for his fellow speed-freaks, Lou lays out exactly what he was trying to do: make music that mirrored the physiological experience of having methamphetamine course through your nervous system. Metal Machine Music, is even subtitled, in case there are any doubters, “The Amine β Ring,” for Christ’s sake!
Reed also mentions in the equipment notes that the album was inspired by the harmonic possibilities inherent in La Monte Young’s Minimalist drone music. Young’s music was very, very difficult for the general public to hear at that time, pressed up on limited edition albums that numbered probably 1000 copies in total, if that. Even to really knowledgeable music fans of the day, there was virtually no way—as in none—to hear his music unless you like knew him personally or visited his “Dream House” audio installation in NYC (still there, by the way), so this reference would have fallen on mostly deaf ears at the time. John Cale played with Young’s Theater of Eternal Music prior to joining the Velvet Underground, as did original VU drummer Angus MacLise, so Reed would have been intimately acquitted with Young’s work, even if few others outside of avant garde music circles would have been. [You could also take the warning about the music causing epileptic seizures to reference the underground film, The Flicker, made by Tony Conrad, another alum of the Theater of Eternal Music]
The goal with MMM was to emulate Young’s long, drawn-out harmonic drones, but with manipulated guitar and microphone feedback. Apparently the way the sounds were derived was by leaning two guitars on amps facing each other and then the resulting feedback was manipulated through tremolo effects units, ring modulators and reverb units. This would in turn vibrate the strings. No one really “played” anything, but the whole thing seems to have been heavily manipulated. The results were laid down on 4-track recordings which were then mixed to stereo with strict separation—what you heard in the left speaker was not what you were hearing in the right and there was no overlap. It has a reputation for being ear-bleeding noise, but in actual fact, there is nothing truly atonal about it. Not saying it’s soothing either, but atonal simply isn’t accurate.
There was, however, a crucial difference in the intent of Young’s Minimalist drones and Reed’s “metal machine music.” Young’s music is something best listened to stoned on pot and lying down. Long, slow, sustained notes played on piano, brass, strings, various exotic instruments and via throat singing is pretty much what you get with Young’s work. Young’s once virtually unobtainable oeuvre—now easy to find all over the Internet—moves with the speed of molasses rolling down a glacier. Being high on cannabis is practically a requirement for appreciating the music, which almost seems to slow down time when paired with some herbal enhancement. Without pot, it would merely be annoying.
Not so with the frenetic swirling maelstrom of MMM. This was music made for speedfreaks by the undisputed king of the speedfreaks. MMM is, quite simply, no more and no less, than an attempt (and a very successful one at that) to mine the same territory (I’m tempted to say “vein”) as La Monte Young’s drone music, albeit filtered through the nervous system of one Lewis Allan Reed, replete with high pitch frequencies, pulses, squeals, squalls and sine waves.
In another important break from Young’s work, where almost nothing happens, MMM has shitloads going on at once. Lou’s brand of Minimalism was quite maximal, when you get right down to it.
And then there is the whole “Lou just did this to piss off his fans and/or his record company” debate. I don’t buy it. I imagine Lou Reed, pumped full of amphetamine, sitting in a recoding studio, twisting knobs and blissing out over what he created. Surely, there must have a level of mischievous “Look what I can get away” antics to be expected of Lou Reed, but as he later said of MMM, “I was serious about it. I was also really, really stoned.”
Hey, a lot of great art is made that way. And recall the part about it being “a gift” in Reed’s liner notes. To his mind, the gift he was offering his fellow speedfreaks was the ultimate head album of all time. Delusions of modern classical grandeur or amphetamine-fueled feedback noodling? It probably doesn’t matter all that much. No matter how you slice it, it was a ballsy move! But a “fuck you” to fans or to RCA? That doesn’t make much sense to me. And besides RCA even went to the extra expense of releasing the album in 4-channel quadraphonic sound.
In any case, after a few months with it, I stopped listening to my 8-track of Metal Machine Music without ever really figuring out whether or not it was any good. So that’s like 35-years ago. I’d see the CD in stores from time to time and contemplate buying it, but I never did.
Last spring with the various live Metal Machine Music performances by Reed and others, there was a rerelease of the quad version of the album on DVD and Blu-ray, so I decided to jump. Hearing MMM in multichannel surround sound seemed too intriguing of an experience to pass up.
Torben Sangild writing in The Journal of Music and Meaning explains, pretty well here, what I was looking for:
[T]here is the possibility of listening to it in more depth, discovering the variations in the stream of rumbling noises and screeching feedback sounds. The harsh feedback sounds are, of course, tones; some of them have a drone-like character, others swarm chaotically. There is no structure, but there is a texture with the drones as temporary points of orientation between traditional opposites - the expressionistic scream and the meditative mantra.
In the Blu-ray 4-channel quadraphonic version, with all of its high-pitched sonic frequencies able to be reproduced properly, listeners can now hear the work as Reed heard it himself in the recording studio. The wider berth of the four channels adds a sonic clarity that coaxes out a lot of the hidden sounds and adds an extra “spatial” element that the stereo version simply doesn’t have. The chaos envelopes the listener like an electronic blizzard. I found myself continuously walking around the room and listening to each speaker. It’s very cool. (If you are curious to hear it after reading this, and have a surround system, the only place you can get the multichannel version is at Lou Reed’s website).
Like Proust’s macaroons, standing there in my living room in Los Angeles, Metal Machine Music transported me back to my childhood and the noisy office where my father worked [Forgive me people, I just had to write that sentence, okay?]. I won’t deny that Metal Machine Music could described as a musical Rorschach blot and that you could project whatever you wanted onto it, but this could be said about a lot of “difficult” music and art. To my mind, Reed’s difficult opus deserves to stand beside work like Stockhausen’s “Kontakte,” John Cage’s “Fontana Mix,” Edgard Varèse’s “Poème Électronique,” as well as the music of Throbbing Gristle that came in its immediate wake. A hundred years from now, when no one remembers who Justin Bieber was, rock snobs will still be trying to figure out Metal Machine Music. It’s the 2001 of rock, a mysterious unapproachable monolith that to some extent, will always remain that way.