Reed, Lou(Ìs Alan)

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Reed, Lou(Ìs Alan)

Reed, Lou(Ìs Alan) , musically educated American rock singer, guitarist, songwriter, and photographer; b. N.Y., March 2, 1942. He studied piano in his childhood, taking up the guitar in high school. After graduating from Syracuse Univ., he read books, wrote poetry, essayed journalism, vocalized to guitar accompaniment, and finally found his niche improvising variously with such psychedelically inclined groups as The Primitives and The Warlocks. In 1966 he recruited a British musician of a similarly educated background, John Cale, and together they formed a sodality inexplicably named The Velvet Underground, projecting bizarre stage behavior and playing sophisticated numbers in dissonant harmony. They attracted the surrealist artist Andy Warhol, who hired them for his “total environment” show “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Under Warhol’s nihilistic influence, The Velvet Underground revived the da-daistic, surrealistic type of old European modernism, superadded with the screeching, screaming, sadomasochistic electronic sound to Reed’s demoralizing anarchistic lyrics openly extolling the psychedelic advantages of narcotics and totally emancipated sex play in

such songs as “Heroin” and “Venus in Furs.” Reed left the group in 1970, and put out such invitations to anarchy as “Walk on the Wild Side,” to date and by far his best known song, and “Metal Music Machine,” in which electronic bleeps and hisses accompanied the shouted homicidal orders Live…Take No Prisoners. His later albums included Coney Island Baby (1976), Street Hassle (1978), The Blue Mask (1982), New Sensations (1984), Mistrial (1986), New York (1989), Magic and Loss (1992), and Set the Twilight Reeling (1996). Reed has also collaborated with the American theater director Robert Wilson, first on Time Rocker (1996), and currently on Poe-Try for Hamburg’s Thalia Theater, for which he is writing both music and lyrics. Reed’s photographic works have been shown at such venues as the Printemps de Cahors in Cahors, France (2000).


D. Clapton, L. R. and the Velvet Underground (London, 1982).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire