The late Lou Reed was the music world’s resident curmudgeon, not afraid to speak his mind and throw a barb in the way of anyone who got in his way. From journalists to fellow musicians, no one was safe from Reed’s vitriol, and the acidity of his words was so potent that it was enough to make a grown man cry. While it made good entertainment for some, quite often it made us as the audience cringe and wonder just why we were giving this strange man the time of day.
The reason why Reed was given the platform to deliver such cutting takes on the world was that he was Lou Reed; this – along with creating era-defining music of his own – is what he did. He was music’s original misanthrope who forensically picked apart culture long before the likes of Steely Dan and Mark E. Smith burst onto the scene.
Notably, Reed’s opinions diverged from that of the norm, and perhaps one of his most unsurprising was his take on the most influential band of all time, Liverpool’s favourite sons, The Beatles. To Reed, John Lennon and Co. just weren’t very good, as he explained during a 1987 interview with PBS in America. “No, no, I never liked the Beatles,” he revealed in the discussion. “I thought they were rubbish.”
It wasn’t just The Beatles that Reed took a shot at either. He managed to elevate his work to the Godly levels and effectively defecate on the work of every other musician of his generation. The following quote is vintage Reed, and perhaps the most arrogant thing he ever said, so be prepared to be blown away. “I know it sounds pretentious”, he expressed. “The other stuff couldn’t come up to our ankles, not up to my kneecap, not up to my ankles, the level we were on, compared to everyone else.”
We’re all for self-confidence and knowing your worth, but Reed’s comment is simply untrue. Whilst artistically, The Velvet Underground were way ahead of their time, you just cannot dismiss the work of others at the time, and as for The Beatles, they are objectively the most significant band in history, and the most influential, so I think it’s a case of Reed not coming up to their ankles in terms of cultural importance.
Regardless, Reed continued by claiming that his contemporaries “were just painfully stupid and pretentious, and they when they did try to get, in quotes, ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock and roll”. Not one to hold back, Reed then took a pop at one of his generation’s other most iconic bands, psych-rock heroes, The Doors. Giving an example of the bands he was describing, he said, “What I mean by ‘stupid,’ I mean, like, The Doors.”
Listen to Reed’s tirade below.