Lou Reed still owes me a fiver

Apr 12, 2010

Why does Lou Reed persevere with the anti-music he called “The Amine B Ring” and/or “Metal Machine Music” ?? Does the world really need a re-mastered version on CD and LP in 2010??  I can’t imagine who  will be attending his forthcoming concerts in the UK where he will be performing it (and nothing but) live. He’s got such a wonderful back catalogue of far better material he could perform.

In 1975 I purchased the original double LP despite reviews in the pop press saying things like “Don’t buy this record. You will regret it !!”. How bad can it be, I thought. I quite like electronic music. I’d enjoyed the first two Faust LPs. “Metal Machine Music” proved to be unlistenable. I believe it was even in Quadrophonic !! At the end of each of the 4 tracks (one per side) the stylus didn’t lift off. The last groove was closed so the music repeated endlessly. I couldn’t tell the difference between that and the music preceding it !! Afterwards it was said that Lou had issued it just to annoy  his record company. What he had actually done was annoy fans like me. I already owned everything the VU and former members of the VU had ever released and have continued to add to that tally to this day (perhaps 200 LPs/CDs).

The fact that all four sides of the LP sounded exactly the same, and all lasted for precisely the same length of time (a mere 16 minutes) convinced me that it was the same piece of “music” repeated four times. What a cheek! I wouldn’t have minded if he had just released MMM as one shorter track on an LP of varied stuff. I was expecting an updated version of “Sister Ray” or “I heard her call my name”. What I got was an hour of metallic drones interspersed with a dentist’s drill. I suppose the history books will say that he invented “Industrial” music and paved the way for “Throbbing Gristle” and all those other “uncompromising” bands.

On Lou’s own website you can listen to/download two minutes-worth of MMM free or even buy an LP or BluRay DVD of the original Quad version apparantly now painstakingly remixed into Stereo. The CD is currenty £3.99 on Amazon…..which I’m sure is less than I paid for the double LP in 1975 !!!  Personally that two minutes-worth is plenty enough for me.

I can’t remember how much double LPs cost in 1975 but it wouldn’t have been an insignificant sum to the teenaged me. So, at the time, after failing to make it through side one without my head exploding, I wrote a letter to Lou (via his record company, RCA) asking for my money back. I explained that I could have bought any number of great double LPs instead such as John and Yoko’s “Sometime in New York City” or “Layla” or “Ummagumma” etc. I’m still awaiting a reply. If I ever bump into Mr Reed in Tescos the first thing I’m going to say to him is “Hey Lou, about that £5…………”

PS: Luckily, a few years later a fab double LP featuring Lou was released. The VUs “Live 1969” remains one of my favourites and for a time all was forgiven……………..

2 Responses to “Lou Reed still owes me a fiver”

  1. Dirigible Says:

    Can’t remember exactly how much it was. My copy has the price sticker removed, unfortunately; although I’m fairly sure it was less than a fiver. £4.69 springs to mind. I was told later that RCA sold less than 700 copies – it wasn’t pressed in the UK, they imported US pressings – much thinner vinyl than UK material. RCA had had problems with these ‘Dynaflex’ records the previous year or so during the European vinyl shortage summer. Sure, they bent double, but the pressings were dreadful – thin and crackly (not that it noticed for ‘Metal Machine Music’)

  2. Perhaps I should change the title to “Lou Reed still owes me £4.69” !!

    Oh and talking of Dynaflex and American pressings in general, I was always astonished at how crap USA pressed records always sounded, particularly the singles which even when new were full of surface noise and often didn’t even have those ridges so you could stack them on your multi-changer.

    So the first VU “Banana” album probably sold 700 copies and they say that everyone who bought it immediately went out and formed their own band. MMM sold 700 copies and everyone who bought it played it once (if that) and put it away for the next 35 years !!

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