We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special performance of Lou Reed’s nostalgic trip down memory lane, ‘Coney Island Baby’. The Velvet Underground performing it for the grateful crowd at the Capitol Theatre in 1984.
Those familiar with Lou Reed and his gigantic contribution to music may well be aware of his 1975 record Metal Machine Music, the most deliberate thumb to the nose at the music industry. But fewer would know about Reed’s return to the mainstream the following year, the brilliant Coney Island Baby.
Metal Machine Music was 64 wholly intolerable minutes of grating feedback with no melodies or lyrics within a mile radius. Reed was seen to be deliberately aggravating the record industry. Yet, when he returned in 1976 it seemed as things had changed and Reed was again employing the subversive pop sensibilities that had seen him and the Velvet Underground become one of most influential bands of the sixties.
The eight-track album was a return to form and its titular track saw something happen which the audience had never seen from Reed before. The singer was looking back rather than driving forward. In the song, Reed reminisces about being in high school before the fame landed at his doorstep but how he still craved the limelight and always wanted to “play football for the coach”.
“Remember that the city is a funny place,” he sings of his hometown on the song. “Something like a circus or a sewer.” It’s a message which rang out across the audience in the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York on Reed’s 1984 tour. While this version of the track moves away from the touching studio recording and instead lets the amped up emotion run free through the speakers.
Reed and Robert Quine wail on guitar to offer a far more powerful sound to accompany the hazy images of yore. Reed thrashes the instrument and lets the evolution of his sound provide the perfect allegory of the track.
The Transformer singer once called ‘Coney Island Baby” a declaration. “Saying ‘I’m a Coney Island baby’ at the end of that song is like saying I haven’t backed off an inch,” he told Rolling Stone‘s Mikal Gilmore in 1979. “And don’t you forget it.”
Watch Lou Reed provide a powerful picture of the past on this stunning performance of ‘Coney Island Baby’ at the Capitol Theatre in 1984.