As today is Friday the 13th, we are revisiting one of the best but little known Friday the 13th stories. This involves the eponymous film franchise and a well-known character called Lou Reed. But before we delve into this vignette, it is appropriate that we get the measure of the man it involves.
Lou Reed was an artist that existed in his own unique format. His unmistakable voice, work in the Velvet Underground, and iconic solo career endeared him to fans worldwide. A mysterious yet caustic individual, he inspired as well as offended. Over the course of his six-decade spanning career, he broke down the barriers of possibility, earning him his well-earnt status in the hallowed annals of rock ‘n’ roll.
A walking embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll, just like every one of our musical heroes, his life was a rich journey of highs and lows, spawning no end of anecdotes. In fact, the majority of the work that we most associate with the character of Lou Reed is his output from the 1960s and ’70s. This era of his career serves as a forensic inspection of the darker side of life. The drug use and mire that inspired a lot of the Velvet Underground‘s best-known works are what really set them apart from their contemporaries.
The band offered a more sinister alternative to the largely happy-go-lucky ethos of the ‘flower-power’ movement. Their name was taken from a book of the same name that discussed the subvert sexual culture of the ’60s. Reed and Co. also thought the name was evocative of “underground cinema”. Therefore, the Velvet Underground set out a blueprint of what they wanted to achieve right from the outset.
In fact, if you listen to their 1967 classic ‘Venus in Furs’, you get the full picture of the group. A proto-punk/drone outfit whose sonic darkness was augmented by Reed’s wicked lyricism. The classic take its title from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novella of the same name. Masoch is the name behind the term Masochism, another glaring reflection of the Velvet Underground’s gothic spirit.
After his departure from the New York outfit, Reed released his seminal solo album Transformer in 1972. A staple of the glam-rock genre and a classic in its own right, the album was produced by none other than David Bowie. Its lead single, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, carried on Reed’s modus operandi and discussed the then-controversial topics of drug use, gender identity and prostitution.
In this sense, we can attribute Reed the role of being rock’s original ‘Prince of Darkness’, long before Ozzy Osbourne would usurp him. Throughout his career, he would continue in this vein, a memorable moment being the bizarre metal album Lulu he released with Metallica in 2011. Reed’s life would be full of these forays into the dark side. It is only right that one of these incidents should relate to the most superstitious date in our calendars.
The iconic first entry of the Friday the 13th franchise was filmed throughout the summer of 1979 across New Jersey. One of the locations was a little town called Blairstown, and it turns out that Lou Reed lived right next door to the set. In his 2013 book On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th, author David Grove revealed: “They filmed at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey, and the property was owned by a man called Fred Smith. He kept talking to the crew about his neighbour, Lou. And the crew said, ‘Who’s Lou?’ And they discovered it was Lou Reed. He came by during filming, and he sometimes played some music.”
Not only did the filming commence in Lou Reed’s vicinity, but the fact that he came on set and sometimes played music is brilliant. Giving him a strange, entertainer-like character. Soundman Richard Murphy remembers the time: “We got to watch Lou Reed play for free, right in front of us, while we were making the film… He just came by the set, and we hung around with each other, and he was just a really great guy.”
Murphy’s account of Lou Reed is significant as it paints a different picture of the complex artist that is well known to have had a rather difficult streak. However, it is a fitting revelation that Lou Reed should grace the set of the iconic slasher film, as his own work often concerned violence. Whilst there exists no footage of Reed visiting the set, it makes us wonder, what would a Lou Reed soundtrack to a Friday the 13th flick sound like?
Listen to ‘Venus in Furs’, below.