Lou Reed was an extraordinary artist, one who reinvented the face of alternative music with and without The Velvet Underground. Despite his own pioneering achievements, Lou Reed, like most people, was a sucker for Bob Dylan. On one occasion, the artist even named his favourite record by everyone’s favourite troubadour.
Sadly, the two musicians never shared the stage together, and it’s unknown what Dylan thinks about Reed. However, the former Velvet Underground did take to the stage at Bobfest in 1992, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Dylan’s first-ever record release on Columbia Records. If the freewheelin’ troubadour wasn’t a fan of his work, then there was no way he was allowing him to perform at Madison Square Garden, so the love was seemingly mutual.
Reed was amongst the array of artists who had to pluck up the courage to perform their favourite Dylan song in front of the man himself. He decided to deliver a rendition of ‘Foot Of Pride’, a deep cut omitted from 1983’s Infidels, but a confirmation of the singer’s obsession with Dylan.
For Reed, however, nothing beats Blood On The Tracks when it comes to Dylan. He made this revelation in a 1999 magazine interview, it was the only album from the singer-songwriter he included in his list, and he limited each artist to one record.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, a decade prior in 1989, Reed opened up his heart about Dylan and made it abundantly clear that his magnificence is unparalleled. “I always go out and get the latest Dylan album,” he proclaimed. “Bob Dylan can turn a phrase, man. Like his last album [Down in the Groove], his choice of songs. ‘Going 90 miles an hour down a dead-end street’ — I’d give anything if I could have written that. Or that other one, ‘Rank Strangers to Me.’ The key word there is rank.”
He added: “I can really listen to something like that. The rest of it is all pop. I have zero interest in it. But Dylan continuously knocks me out. ‘Brownsville Girl,’ the thing he did with Sam Shepard, he said, ‘Even the SWAT teams around here are getting pretty corrupt.’ I was on the floor. I have that same reaction to some of my own stuff. And the only other person I can think of who does that for me is Dylan.”
When asked about how he compares to Lennon, while the former Beatle is someone that Reed respected, nobody could compete with Dylan in his eyes. He added: “He wrote a song called ‘Mother’ that I thought was a really good song. ‘Jealous Guy.’ I liked his stuff away from the Beatles. Just my own taste. But the kind of phrasing that knocks me out is Dylan’s. For language, Dylan kills me to this day.”
Lou Reed usually used his tongue to be scathing of others, and getting a compliment from him was akin to getting blood from a stone. With most artists, he’d be able to nitpick some fault in their work, but with Dylan, he couldn’t help marvelling at his utter brilliance, which in his own words put him ‘on the floor’.