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Biography From The Beginning to The 70´s:
Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed (March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013) was an American rock musician and songwriter. After being guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of the Velvet Underground, his solo career spanned several decades. The Velvet Underground were a commercial failure in the late 1960s, but the group has gained a considerable cult following in the years since its demise and has gone on to become one of the most widely cited and influential bands of the era – hence Brian Eno's famous quote that while the Velvet Underground's debut album only sold 30,000 copies, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
|Lou Reed - Spain Single 1973|
Reed was born at Beth El Hospital (now Brookdale) in Brooklyn and grew up in Freeport, Long Island. Contrary to some sources, his birth name was Lewis Allan Reed, not Louis Firbanks, a name that was coined as a joke by Lester Bangs in Creem magazine. Reed is the son of Toby (née Futterman) and Sidney Joseph Reed, an accountant. His family was Jewish, and although he said that he was Jewish, he added, "My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar."
Reed as a high school senior, 1959
Having learned to play the guitar from the radio, he developed an early interest in rock and roll and rhythm and blues, and during high school played in several bands. His first recording was as a member of a doo wop-style group called The Jades. In 1956, Reed, who was bisexual, received electroconvulsive therapy as a teenager, which was intended to cure his bisexuality; he wrote about the experience in his 1974 song, "Kill Your Sons". In an interview, Reed said of the experience:
"They put the thing down your throat so you don't swallow your tongue, and they put electrodes on your head. That's what was recommended in Rockland State Hospital to discourage homosexual feelings. The effect is that you lose your memory and become a vegetable. You can't read a book because you get to page 17 and have to go right back to page one again."
—Lou Reed quoted in Please Kill Me (1996)
Reed began attending Syracuse University in 1960, studying journalism, film directing, and creative writing. He was a platoon leader in ROTC and later booted from the program for holding an unloaded gun to his superior's head. In 1961 he began hosting a late-night radio program on WAER called "Excursions On A Wobbly Rail". Named after a song by pianist Cecil Taylor, the program typically featured doo wop, rhythm and blues and jazz, particularly the free jazz developed in the mid-1950s. Many of Reed's guitar techniques, such as the guitar-drum roll, were inspired by jazz saxophonists, such as Ornette Coleman. Reed graduated with honors from Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. in June 1964.
While enrolled at Syracuse University, he studied under poet Delmore Schwartz, who he said was "the first great person I ever met", and they would become friends. He credited Schwartz with showing him how "with the simplest language imaginable, and very short, you can accomplish the most astonishing heights." Reed dedicated the song "European Son", from the Velvet Underground's debut album, to Schwartz. In 1982, Reed also recorded "My House" as a tribute to his late mentor. He later said that his goals as a writer were "to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music" or to write the Great American Novel in a record album.
Songwriter at Pickwick Records:
In 1964, Reed moved to New York City and began working as an in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records. In 1964, he scored a minor hit with the single "The Ostrich", a parody of popular dance songs of the time, which included lines such as "put your head on the floor and have somebody step on it". His employers felt that the song had hit potential, and arranged for a band to be assembled around Reed to promote the recording. The ad hoc group, called "The Primitives", included Welsh musician John Cale, who had recently moved to New York to study music and was playing viola in composer La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music, along with Tony Conrad. Cale and Conrad were both surprised to find that for "The Ostrich", Reed tuned each string of his guitar to the same note, which they began to call his "ostrich guitar" tuning. This technique created a drone effect similar to their experimentation in Young's avant-garde ensemble. Disappointed with Reed's performance, Cale was nevertheless impressed by Reed's early repertoire (including "Heroin"), and a partnership began to evolve.
The Velvet Underground:
Reed and Cale lived together on the Lower East Side, and after inviting Reed's college acquaintances, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, to join the group, they formed the Velvet Underground. Though internally unstable (Cale left in 1968, Reed in 1970), and without commercial success, the band has a long-standing reputation as one of the most influential in rock history.
The group soon caught the attention of artist Andy Warhol. One of Warhol's first contributions was to integrate them into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Warhol's associates inspired many of Reed's songs as he fell into a thriving, multifaceted artistic scene. Reed rarely gave an interview without paying homage to Warhol as a mentor. Conflict emerged when Warhol had the idea for the group to take on a chanteuse, the European former model and singer Nico. Reed and the others registered their objection by titling their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico to imply that Nico was not accepted as a member of the group. Despite his initial resistance, Reed wrote several songs for Nico to sing, and the two were briefly lovers (as were Nico and Cale later). The Velvet Underground & Nico reached No. 171 on the charts.
The album is now widely considered one of the most influential rock albums ever recorded. Rolling Stone has it listed as the 13th most influential album of all time. Brian Eno once famously stated that although few people bought the album, most of those who did were inspired to form their own band. Vaclav Havel credited this album, which he bought while visiting the U.S., with inspiring him to become president of Czechoslovakia.
By the time the band recorded White Light/White Heat, Nico had quit and Warhol was fired, both against Cale's wishes.
Warhol's replacement as manager, Steve Sesnick, convinced Reed to drive Cale out of the band. Morrison and Tucker were discomfited by Reed's tactics but continued with the group.
Cale's replacement was Doug Yule, whom Reed would often facetiously introduce as his younger brother.
The group now took on a more pop-oriented sound and acted more as a vehicle for Reed to develop his songwriting craft.
The group released two albums with this line up: 1969's The Velvet Underground and 1970's Loaded. The latter included two of the group's most commercially successful songs, "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane". Reed left the Velvet Underground in August 1970; the band disintegrated as core members Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker departed in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Yule continued until early 1973, and the band released one more studio album, Squeeze, under the Velvet Underground name.
After the band's move to Atlantic Records' Cotillion label, their new manager pushed Reed to change the subject matter of his songs to lighter topics in hopes of commercial success. The band's album Loaded had taken more time to record than the previous three albums together, but had not broken the band through to a wider audience. Reed briefly retired to his parents' home on Long Island.
After quitting the Velvet Underground in August 1970, Reed took a job at his father's tax accounting firm as a typist, by his own account earning $40 a week. In 1971, he signed a recording contract with RCA Records and recorded his first solo album in London with top session musicians including Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, members of the progressive rock group Yes. The album, Lou Reed, contained smoothly produced, re-recorded versions of unreleased Velvet Underground songs, some of which were originally recorded by the Velvets for Loaded but shelved (see the Peel Slowly and See box set). This first solo album was overlooked by most pop music critics and it did not sell well, although music critic Stephen Holden, in Rolling Stone, called it an "almost perfect album. . . . which embodied the spirit of the Velvets." Holden describes Reed's unique qualities, in both his voice and lyrics, in the album:
|The Velvet Underground And Nico - US Single 1966|
In December 1972, Reed released Transformer. David Bowie and Mick Ronson co-produced the album and introduced Reed to a wider popular audience (specifically in the UK). The hit single "Walk on the Wild Side" was an ironic yet affectionate salute to the misfits, hustlers, and transvestites who once surrounded Andy Warhol. When he was first introduced to Reed's music, Bowie stated, "I had never heard anything quite like it. It was a revelation to me."
Each of the song's five verses poignantly describes a person who had been a fixture at The Factory during the mid-to-late 1960s: (1) Holly Woodlawn, (2) Candy Darling, (3) "Little Joe" Dallesandro, (4) "Sugar Plum Fairy" Joe Campbell and (5) Jackie Curtis. The song's transgressive lyrics evaded radio censorship. Though the jazzy arrangement (courtesy of bassist Herbie Flowers and saxophonist Ronnie Ross) was musically somewhat atypical for Reed, it eventually became his signature song. The song came about as a result of his commission to compose a soundtrack to a theatrical adaptation of Nelson Algren's novel of the same name, though the play failed to materialize. Ronson's arrangements brought out new aspects of Reed's songs. "Perfect Day," for example, features delicate strings and soaring dynamics. It was rediscovered in the 1990s and allowed Reed to drop "Walk on the Wild Side" from his concerts.
Transformer was Reed's commercial and critical pinnacle, and he resented the shadow the record cast over the rest of his career. An argument between Bowie and Reed ended their working relationship for several years, though its subject is not known. The two reconciled some years later, and Reed performed with Bowie at the latter's 50th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in 1997.
They did not formally collaborate again until 2003's The Raven. Touring in support of Transformer posed the challenge of forming a band for the first time since joining the Velvets. Reed hired an inexperienced bar band, the Tots. Reed spent much of 1972 and early 1973 on the road with them. Though they improved over the months, criticism of their still-basic abilities ultimately led Reed to fire them mid-tour. He chose keyboardist Moogy Klingman to come up with a new five-member backing band on barely a week's notice. Thus the tour continued with a denser, bluesier and tighter sound that presaged the very successful live albums Reed would record with all different musicians in December.
Reed followed Transformer with the darker Berlin, a concept album about two junkies in love in the city. The songs variously concern domestic abuse ("Caroline Says I," "Caroline Says II"), drug addiction ("How Do You Think It Feels"), adultery and prostitution ("The Kids"), and suicide ("The Bed"). Reed's late-1973 European tour, featuring dual lead guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, mixed his Berlin material with older numbers.
|The Velvet Underground And Nico |
US Picture Skeeve Single 1966
As he had done with Berlin after Transformer, in 1975 Reed responded to commercial success with a commercial failure, a double album of electronically generated audio feedback, Metal Machine Music. Critics interpreted it as a gesture of contempt, an attempt to break his contract with RCA or to alienate his less sophisticated fans. Reed claimed that the album was a genuine artistic effort, even suggesting that quotations of classical music could be found buried in the feedback. Lester Bangs declared it "genius," though also as psychologically disturbing. The album was reportedly returned to stores by the thousands after a few weeks. Though later admitting that the liner notes' list of instruments is fictitious and intended as parody, Reed maintains that MMM was and is a serious album. He has since stated though that at the time he had taken it seriously, he was also "very stoned". In the 2000s it was adapted for orchestral performance by the German ensemble Zeitkratzer.
By contrast, 1975's Coney Island Baby was mainly a warm and mellow album, though for its characters Reed still drew on the underbelly of city life. At this time his lover was a transgender woman, Rachel, mentioned in the dedication of "Coney Island Baby" and appearing in the photos on the cover of Reed's 1977 "best of" album, Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed. While Rock and Roll Heart, his 1976 debut for his new record label Arista, fell short of expectations, Street Hassle (1978) was a return to form in the midst of the punk scene he had helped to inspire. Reed was dismissive of punk, and rejected any affiliation with it. "I'm too literate to be into punk rock . . . The whole CBGB's, new Max's thing that everyone's into and what's going on in London—you don't seriously think I'm responsible for what's mostly rubbish?"
In 1978 Reed released his third live album, Live: Take No Prisoners, which some critics thought was his "bravest work yet," while others considered it his "silliest." Rolling Stone described it as "one of the funniest live albums ever recorded [with] Lou's dark-humored, Lenny Bruce-like monologues. Reed felt it was his best album:
You may find this funny, but I think of it as a contemporary urban-blues album. After all, that's what I write—tales of the city. And if I dropped dead tomorrow, this is the record I'd choose for posterity. It's not only the smartest thing I've done, it's also as close to Lou Reed as you're probably going to get, for better or for worse.
The Bells (1979) featured jazz musician Don Cherry, and was followed the next year by Growing Up in Public with guitarist Chuck Hammer. Around this period he also appeared as a sleazy record producer in Paul Simon's film One Trick Pony. Reed also played several unannounced one-off concerts in tiny downtown Manhattan clubs with the likes of Cale, Patti Smith, and David Byrne during this period. Reed and Patti Smith both worked at Record Plant in 1977 at the same time, each trying to complete albums. Bruce Springsteen was also at the studio working on finishing his Darkness on the Edge of Town album. [Source Wikipedia]
ABOUT THIS RECORDING:
The late 1974 US tour to promote "Sally Can't Dance" was Lou's amphetamine and alcohol - fuelled assault on the unsuspecting youth of North America. The RCA publicity machine had moved into top gear, but Lou was speeding way, way ahead of them. While they were pushing him as a user-friendly glam-rock/white soul superstar, he was dying iron crosses in his hair, living with a half-Mexican transsexual called Rachel and (simulating) shooting up on stage. The new LP and 45 were being being heavily promoted via nationwide TV ads featuring our man in trademark leather jacket, blonde hair and shades (...follow the bouncing ball and sing along with Lou.....). Whatever RCA were doing, it worked, and "Sally" was in the US top 10 LP chart. Lou was later quoted as saying "....I slept through that LP - whatever they suggested I said yes....". It seemed that the further Lou descended into self-parody, the more records he sold, and the more pressure RCA put on him to produce even more "product". This would ultimately backfire in mid 1975, when he vomited up "Metal Machine Music" and then had a very public breakdown during the Australian leg of the '75 world tour. Lou wouldn't perform in public again until late 1976.
I think this is a simply outstanding show. Lou may be out of it, but the band most certainly are not. I love the way you can hear Lou slapping the mic stand at the end of "Vicious". The vocals alternate between detached and manic throughout this set, but are particularly expressive during "Kill Your Sons" (surely the best EVER live version of this song). It's as if he's standing on the edge of a cliff and he's just about to jump off because he KNOWS he can fly. This tour was the only outing for "NY Stars" and "Animal Language" - these live renditions sound better than the studio versions to me. You can hear him sneering as he spits out the words to "NY Stars". It sounds as if someone broke a string during "Animal Language": the band start a loose jam while it's being replaced. Lou starts vamping the words to "Waiting" during the jam, and just continues singing it when the band move on to the "Sally Can't Dance" riff. The end result is a unique medley of "Waiting" and "Sally" (you have to wonder how long it took Lou to realise he was singing the wrong song - he did pretty much the same at the Chalmette show in November, singing "Vicious" while the band played "Sweet Jane"). "White Light White Heat" is a heavy metal prototype for every late 1970s punk band. "Goodnight Ladies" is a gas, with the whole band gathering round the microphone - you can (just) hear someone in the background asking where the "Jacks" (Jack Daniels) is.....they were having a good time. "Rock And Roll" is simply sublime.
The stereo recording made at Dayton was missing "Intro/Sweet Jane" and part of "Vicious" and there was a tape break during "Wild Side": mono soundboard recordings from the New York concert have been used to replace those songs.
27 October 1974
♣ Lou Reed: vocals. amphetamines, foul language
♣ Danny Weiss: guitar
♣ Prakash John: bass (definitely tracks D101, D102, D103, D104, D204 and possibly all the others)
♣ Peter Hodgeson (?): bass (possibly the tracks recorded at Dayton)
♣ Michael Fonfara: keyboards
♣ Peter "Mouse" Johnson: drums
01. Tuning* 1.26
02. Intro* 2.38
03. Sweet Jane* 5.21
04. Vicious* 6.26
05. Ride Sally Ride 4.24
06. Heroin 11.13
07. Kill Your Sons 7.35
08. NY Stars 5.00
01. Animal Language 3.08
02. Waiting For The Man/Sally Can't Dance 9.38
03. Bass Solo 3.46
04. Walk On The Wild Side* 4.26
05. White Light White Heat 5.40
06. NY Telephone Conversation/Goodnight Ladies 1.44
07. Rock And Roll 12.38
*Tracks D101, D102, D103, D104 and D204 are MONO soundboard recordings from the Felt Forum, New York, 09 October 1974
The remaining tracks are STEREO soundboard recordings from the Palace Theatre, Dayton, 27 October 1974
Part 1: Link
Part 2: Link
Part 1: Link
Part 2: Link
|Poster 1968, click n picture for bigger size|