The Story Behind The Song: Lou Reed track ‘Andy’s Chest’, an ode to an assassination attempt on Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol and Lou Reed shared a strong bond for a number of years after the pioneering pop-artist discovered The Velvet Underground, a collaboration which then resulted in him becoming their manager and elevating their status merely by their connection to him which was
Warhol helped the band follow their creative vision and, in the late sixties under his stewardship, he played a key role in shaping the legacy of the group. However, in 1968 an assassination attempt on Warhol, which nearly killed him, caused a detrimental impact on the artist and also scarred Lou Reed as well.
The shocking event took place when a woman named Valerie Solanos tried to kill Warhol in his studio, firing three shots straight into his chest. Her reasoning for attempting to murder the legendary art figure was because he didn’t produce one of her scripts she sent over to him. It was later revealed that Solanos was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Warhol’s life was in the balance and he needed to spend five hours under the knife to keep him alive, with the result of the incident leaving the artist with a giant scar on his chest. Lou Reed detailed his distress about the incident and how much Warhol meant to him in the best and only way he knew how; in the form of song and, alas, ‘Andy’s Chest’ was born.
The track was written in the aftermath of the event but didn’t see the light of day until it appeared on Reed’s seminal Transformer album after David Bowie and Mick Ronson revived the song. Bowie produced the track as well as providing background vocals meanwhile Ronson assisted with production and played the guitar.
The influence that Warhol had on Reed can’t really be played down with the former Velvet Underground even once saying on record: “I was a product of Andy Warhol’s Factory. All I did was sit there and observe these incredibly talented and creative people who were continually making art, and it was impossible not to be affected by that.”
Reed’s gratitude was omnipresent in this song and without Warhol who knows whether he would have ended up meeting Bowie in the first place who played such a key role in making Transformer the incredible beast it became. Even if ‘Andy’s Chest’ does have a somewhat humourous nature to it, the message at its core is pure and Reed’s way of showing his appreciation for his former mentor.