Not gonna lie. I wasn’t a big fan of Lou Reed. Not a great singer, not a great guitar player and I can count on one hand all the songs he made that I liked and I don’t have to use all my fingers.
What makes Lou Reed a rock n’ roller whose death deserves more than a paragraph is there are few artists who shared his heroin addiction, his rehabilitation, his sexuality, his opinions and never sold out to just to sell a record or land a Rolling Stone cover. Most of his fans dug his days with the Velvet Underground, but I could make up a mix tape (yeah, I said “tape”) with “Walk On The Wild Side,” “Vicious,” “Busload of Faith,” “Dirty Boulevard” and “I Love You, Suzanne.” Hmmm…guess I can use all the fingers on one hand.
What I liked more than Reed’s brand of rock n’ roll was his rock n’ roll attitude. He was surly, short-tempered and did not suffer fools gladly. Why should he? He was smart too. Reed did what he pleased and fuck you very much if it didn’t please you. Reed seemed to get a kick out of being provocative to his fans and openly hostile to his critics.
In 1975, Reed dropped Metal Machine Music on the world rarely has an artist so deliberately flipped off the fans and critics in such a deliberate way. MMM has become the ultimate torture test with its 64 minutes of screeches, feedback and distortion. Instead of pumping out heavy metal to make Gitmo prisoners suffer, blasting out MMM would make the toughest terrorist crumble like a freshly baked cookie. Reed said in an interview, “Well, anyone who gets to side four is dumber than I am.”
Back in the day when I was reading Creem magazine with religious fervor I dug the hell when the immortal Lester Bangs would interview Reed. They went at it like an old married couple, but I always felt the immense respect between them because they were both the same kind of weird bastards. Reed rocked with a guitar and Bangs with a typewriter and his review of Metal Machine Music was a classic moment in gonzo journalism.
Good night, Sweet Lou. Lester’s got a cold one waiting for you, you great bastard you. Take one last walk on the wild side.
It has been suggested that in my annual regress report to the stockholders, published here last month, I neglected in all five thousand words to ever once mention why Metal Machine Music is a good album. So here, especially in light of Coney Island Baby, are the reasons:
If you ever thought feedback was the best thing that ever happened to the guitar, well, Lou just got rid of the guitars.
I realize that any idiot with the equipment could have made this album, including me, you or Lou. That’s one of the main reasons I like it so much. As with the Godz and Tangerine Dream, not only does it bring you closer to the artist, but someday, god willing, I may get to do my own Metal Machine Music. It’s all folk music, anyway.
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.
My pet land hermit crab, Spud, who sometimes goes for days at a time curled up inside his shell in a corner of the cage so you gotta check to see if he’s dead, likes MMM a lot. Every time I put it on, he comes out of his shell and starts crawling happily around the sand and climbing the bars. It is, in fact, the only time I ever see him get any exercise. Either that or he’s dancing. 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. If anyone out there reading this knows any more about this phenomenon, please get in touch with me immediately.
By the way? I absolutely DESPISE Metal Machine Music.
- Lou Reed 1942-2013 R.I.P. (markosun.wordpress.com)
- 20 Essential Lou Reed Tracks (rollingstone.com)
- Wrap Your Dreams in Trouble: Lou Reed, 1942-2013 (lineout.thestranger.com)