40 years ago today: Lou Reed releases Metal Machine Music, and my dumbass buddy buys it


By Steve Newton

1975 was a very good year for rock n roll. Maybe even the best. That’s the year of Aerosmiith‘s Toys in the Attic, Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, and Thin Lizzy‘s Fighting.

Not to mention Ian Hunter’s solo debut.

Unfortunately for my high-school buddy Mike, it was also the year of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.

For the uninitiated, Reed’s MMM was his grudging “FUCK YOU!” to the record company (RCA) that he still owed an album to under his contract. He just recorded four sides’ worth of virtually unlistenable feedback noise–kinda what you hear when your TV goes on the fritz with the volume up–in order to stick it to “the man”–the soulless corporation that distributed his music and gave him money for it.

Unfortunately, he also stuck it to poor Mikey, who went out and bought the album at Chilliwack’s Kelly’s Stereo Mart with his hard-earned berry-picking money before I could. He was aiming for bragging rights.

Instead, the purchase would haunt him forever.

Well, maybe not forever. But if I ever see him again, I’m definitely gonna mention it.

I know it’s not polite to speak ill of the dead, but, holy shit, Lou–you burned us, man! Even though I didn’t actually lose money on the deal myself, I did suffer for a few minutes up at Mike’s parents’ house on Chilliwack Mountain listening to it on his cheap-ass Sears sound system, which didn’t help matters any.

Why, Lou, why? You look so cool on the album cover, standing there with those black shades and leather duds. And the title itself was ROCK: Metal Machine Music. The whole package was way too inviting for teenage rock freaks to pass up.

The most bizarre thing about MMM though, was how, just four months earlier, The Artist Formerly Known as Decent had released Lou Reed Live, which featured tracks from that amazing New York concert first heard on the previous year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. Live included awesome tunes like “Vicious” and “I’m Waiting for the Man”, and like Animal boasted the white-hot, dueling guitars of the late Dick Wagner and my current Facebook friend Steve Hunter.

Did Lou release those two killer live discs just so he could get gullible guys like me ‘n’ Mike all buttered up for another barnburner, making the colossal letdown of his MMM mindfuck all the more shocking and painful to endure?

Not cool, Lou, not cool.

But rest in peace, anyway, dude. I’m sure you only play your Metal Machine Music 8-track up there when that Metallica collaboration gets too boring, and you feel like making the angels scream and scurry away in fear before bursting into flame.

2 thoughts on “40 years ago today: Lou Reed releases Metal Machine Music, and my dumbass buddy buys it

  1. lou reed i would think just wanted out of his contract,i doubt he would ‘stick it too his fans’-a lot of naive musician’s think it’s great getting a contract -that’s far from true-there are obligation’s-deadline’s-and a deadline when you are creating something out of thin air, like art, is not alway’s possible—fin.

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