Lou Reed R.I.P

Nov 1, 2013


Lou Reed     02/03/1942 – 27/10/2013

Poet, songwriter, musician and Tai Chi expert Lou Reed died recently. Famous for catchy tunes such as Do the Ostrich, Cycle Annie, Sister Ray and accessible albums such as “Berlin”, “Metal Machine Music”, “The Raven” and “Lulu” with Metallica. His solo albums along with those by the VU, Nico, John and Maureen make up about 25% of my record collection. Another end of an era.

Those were different times

PS: There seems to be some confusion about the true spelling of his name. Various blogs and Wikis say it was Lewis Allan Reed, whilst the obituaries in The Times and The Telegraph say it was Louis Alan Reed. Who is right?

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……………..