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(Credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot / Alamy)


Listen to a pre-fame Lou Reed cover The Beach Boys for his day job


Before Lou Reed met John Cale and decided to form The Velvet Underground, he knew that music was the road for him — even if it meant covering other artists to make rent. There simply wasn’t anything else Lou Reed wanted to do with his life.

After putting together a cover rendition of The Beach Boys in 1965, Reed was in a peculiar place in his life and seemingly at a crossroads. Long before he first experimented with the avant-garde side of music, he’d already been a member of a doo-wop group and shown that he wasn’t against traditional mainstream music.

In 1964, Reed moved to New York and festered a dream to become an artist in his own name. However, his rise to fame wasn’t straightforward. Reed’s first job in the industry came as a songwriter for Pickwick Records, and it was here where he covered The Beach Boys.

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One of the releases by the label during Reed’s time working at Pickwick Records was The Surfsiders Sing The Beach Boys Songbook, and he provided vocals for the track ‘Little Deuce Coupe’.

Although Reed didn’t choose the track personally, it certainly wasn’t a task that he would have been resentful about taking up, especially considering he was an unapologetic fan of The Beach Boys. In fact, Reed even felt that Brian Wilson was the second coming of Christ.

In 1966, Reed wrote a glowing review for Aspen Vol 1 No 3 Section 3 about the surf-rock group. “California plastic people came up with California plastic chord changes,” he wrote. “Which meant sticking in a Bb before your G, and after your C. Jan and Dean, the Beachboys, as opposed to Negro cooings in the East with shiny saxophones, California plastic concentrated on white twirps and falsetto chirps,” Reed added.

Reed continued: “(Sidewalk Surfin – the angel chorus- ‘shake your B. . .uns.’) The cult of the celestial choir. There is no god and Brian Wilson is his son. Brian Wilson stirred up the chords. Deftly taking from all sources, old rock, Four Freshman, he got in his later records a beautiful hybrid sound, (‘Let Him Run Wild’, ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, ‘I Get Around’, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun — and she had fun, fun, fun till her daddy took her t-bird away’).”

He concluded: “Like demented unicorns the East went West, and, it, all, made, it. It wasn’t really a long cry from such early classics as ‘Peppermint Stick’ by the Elchords (in N.Y. there are stores which sell old rock records for as much as $500).”

Although the similarities between the artistry of Reed and Wilson were not glaringly obvious, The Velvet Underground singer deeply respected the craft of the Californian, who was somebody he held in the highest regard.

As for his cover of ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ was for The Surfsiders Sing The Beach Boys Songbook, Reed could not add his own flavour to the track, but it’s fascinating to hear him record in this environment. Stream the song, below.

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