5 Things You May Not Have Known About Lou Reed
Today we celebrate the birthday of Lewis Allan Reed, better known to you, me and everyone else as Lou. To commemorate the occasion, weâve put together a list of five things that you may or may not have known about the former Velvet Underground frontman and formidable singer-songwriter.
- His first group he recorded with was all about the doo-wop.
The Jades werenât Reedâs first group, but they were the first one that actually went into a recording studio. In 1958, when he was still in high school, Reed and his bandmates went into a studio, and although Reed himself didnât sing on the two tracks (âSo Blueâ and âLeave Her for Meâ), he did play on them. Years later, Reed described The Jades as âjust one guitar and two other guys singing,â but his fondest memories seemed to be about their live shows: âWe would play shopping malls and some really bad violent places. I was always, like, tremendously under age, which was pretty cool.
- He did a stint as a DJ in the early â60s.
While attending Syracuse University, Reed had a late-night show called âExcursions on a Wobbly Railâ on WAER. Given that its title was taken from a song by Cecil Taylor, itâs no surprise that Reedâs shows usually featured some jazz, along with doo-wop and R&B.
- He and John Cale met as a result of a novelty song Reed wrote for Pickwick Records.
The song in question, âThe Ostrich,â was intended by Reed to be a parody of all the other ridiculous dance crazes that were taking off at the time, and Pickwick had enough confidence in its chart potential that they decided to go for broke, putting together a band called The Primitives to promote it. One of the members of this band was â you guessed it â John Cale, who was impressed enough with Reedâs writing and playing beyond âThe Ostrichâ for a collaboration to develop.
- He once did a commercial for Honda Scooters.
You can almost imagine Reed giggling with glee at the idea of the too-cool crowd having heart attacks after watching this commercial, which featured âWalk on the Wild Sideâ playing for several seconds, after which he appeared and said, âHey! Donât settle for walkinâ!â He did, however, occasionally get defensive when asked about it. âI canât live in an ivory tower like people would like me to,â Reed later said of the ad. âI used to watch Andy [Warhol] do something for TV Guide or Absolut Vodka â¦ When our equipment broke, thatâs how it got replaced. We didnât turn around and tell Andy we canât touch that money because it came from doing a commercial. I donât think that occurred to anybody.â
- He stayed friends with Paul Simon despite the box office of One-Trick Pony.
If youâve never seen Paul Simonâs 1980 movie about the music business, you really should. Itâs not perfect, but itâs still worth checking out, particularly for Reedâs over-the-top performance. When Reedâs liver problems sent him into the hospital, Simon sent him a care package of albums, including R&B albums from the â50s and LPs from Harry Partch and Lou Harrison. As Simon told Anthony DeCurtis in Lou Reed: A Life, âI figured that covered the spectrum with Lou, as it did with me.â