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(Credit: Polydor)


Revisit the moment Lou Reed offered his views on Velvet Underground bandmates

Lou Reed was often considered a bit of a hot-headed, cantankerous contrarian, and there was little he enjoyed more than lambasting his highly revered peers. He was known for being difficult to work with from time to time due to his headstrong and unwavering opinions and dry sense of humour. 

In the early 1970s, a magazine collated some of Reed’s thoughts on contemporary artists and countercultural figures. The article has recently resurfaced on social media, and upon reading it, it’s interesting to see which way Emperor Reed turned his thumb. 

The Velvet Underground frontman shows the full potential of his impudence, claiming that “[Bob] Dylan gets on [his] nerves,” and The Who’s Pete Townshend is “talentless” and “boring”. Other artists that come under fire include Frank Zappa, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper and pretty much every band from California; such is the rivalry between the East and West coasts of the States. 

In stark contrast to Reed’s scathing critiques are some scattered awards of deep respect. He shows “intrigue” for The Rolling Stones and discusses his friend and collaborator David Bowie. “I love the guy,” Reed said. “He’s got everything. The kid’s got everything… everything.”

The article also reports Reed’s thoughts on some of his former Velvet Underground bandmates and collaborators. When The Velvets started off in New York City in the mid-1960s, they were given a leg-up from the famous pop artist Andy Warhol. He took them under his wing as part of his bohemian art troupe known as The Factory and brought in Nico to collaborate on their now-iconic debut album in 1967. 

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Of his mentor, Warhol, Reed said: “I really love him.” Meanwhile, he said of Nico: “She’s the kind of person that you meet, and you’re not quite the same afterwards. She has an amazing mind, and The Marble Index is just one of the milestone albums.”

Elsewhere in the article, Reed said, “I only hope that one day John [Cale] will be recognised as… the Beethoven or something of his day. He continued, “He knows so much about music, he’s such a great musician. He’s completely mad – but that’s because he’s Welsh.”

Commenting on Maureen (Moe) Tucker, The Velvet Underground’s drummer and central hub, Reed had nothing but great things to say. “She’s so beautiful,” he said. “She has to be one of the most fantastic people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s so impossibly great, but I can never believe it, you know, when we’re walking round the studio, and I run into Moe, I just can’t believe it.”

In 1968, after John Cale left The Velvet Underground at the request of creative partner and rival Reed, they brought in the multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule. Instead of piling praise on his immensely talented bandmate, Reed picked up on the musician’s innocence. “I was working on Doug’s innocence… I’m sure he never understood a word of what he was singing. He doesn’t know what it’s about. I mean, I thought it was so cute… I adore people who are like that, they’re so cute y’know.”

Reed candidly displayed how he can just as easily complement a dear friend as scathe his competitors. It’s difficult to tell how serious Reed’s comments on his rivals were. There could have been a touch of humour or jealousy in some of the more outlandish critiques, but what’s strikingly obvious is that he had buckets of respect for his fellow Velvets.

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