When you search through the plethora of quotes attributed to Velvet Undeground maestro and all-around pop music genius Lou Reed about other bands, a rough estimate would suggest over half of those comments would be disparaging. In fact, there’s a good chance that the vast majority of those comments would be as vicious as his song’s namesake. Reed was a fire-breathing lover of music, and he was not afraid to torch any band that stepped in the way of what he perceived as the sanctity of the art form.
Whether it was The Beatles, The Doors or even some of the members of his own band, Reed dished out more barbs than Mattel during his time on earth. Sadly passing away in 2013, Reed’s legacy is one enriched by a catalogue of songs that explored the intricacies of the human condition and subverted the notions of shimmering pop perfection and the potent and poisonous way he could bring bands down to earth.
It’s not just bands that have felt the wrath of an uncompromising Reed. He made a good name for himself as one of the most hostile interviewees around. He left some journalists quivering and others as burnt ash on the floor. However, below, we’re looking back at some of Reed’s more cutting takedowns as he spent a whole article decoding and devouring some of the finest acts rock music has ever known.
Within the article, Reed takes on a huge array of acts. He calls Frank Zappa the “most untalented” person in rock music before describing Roxy Music as “boring”, referred to Pete Townshend as “talentless” and said that if you ever met Bob Dylan at a party, “you’d tell him to shut up.” But his most scathing comment came for shock rock pioneer and all-around nice guy, Alice Cooper.
Widely thought of as the founder of shock rock as we know it, Cooper’s penchant for blood, gore and a whole heap of stage theatrics is the antithesis of Reed’s perception of pop music as an unfettered kind of poetry. Reed wanted his music to be the dirt under the fingernails of the everyman, while Cooper preferred to keep his talent firmly under the spotlight, posing within intricate stage productions and vast orchestral narratives.
Such a disparity in their musical leanings led Reed to refer to offer a rather unflattering comment on the band. “God, do you really want my opinion on THEM?” It would have probably sufficed to showcase his displeasure; however, Reed was never one for curtailing his expression and continued: “They are the worst, most disgusting aspect of rock music.”
Of course, Reed was never afraid to change his mind either. Despite calling out The Beatles on many occasions, within this article, he actually changes his opinion and says: “I don’t think people realise how sad it is that The Beatles broke up.” However, judging by their vastly different ideas on what rock and roll is, at its heart, means we can likely rest assured that Reed held this opinion for many, many years.