LOU REED Metal Machine Music (1975) – 1942-2013 R.I.P.

Metal Machine Music (1975)
The Ultimate Fuck You

Anyone who maintains they weren’t appalled upon first hearing this 4-sided series of squealing noise concoctions in 1975, would have to have been so knee-deep into the avant garde they’d have no reason for buying a Lou Reed album in the first place. Of course, since then, Metal Machine Music has been championed by the likes of Lester Bangs (who knew a good fuck you when he heard one) and noise merchants from Merzbow to Sonic Youth. Like most, I’ve never bothered to make it through all four sides at once, even on a self-dare. Though, I must admit, I’m finding these sonically recalibrated sheets of distorted, metallic, calliope-like guitar effects quite entertaining as I write this – even if, 15 minutes in, it’s causing a splitting headache. Funny enough, in the rock world, this concept had already been applied by Fripp & Eno for No Pussyfooting, two years earlier. The end result of F&E’s ambient series of tape manipulated guitar effects had the opposite effect of Reed’s teeth-gnasher, but the principle was the same. Whether Reed’s intention was to advance the science of noise, or simply to piss off his record company, you’ll have to ask Lou… when he’s feeling honest about it all. Personally? I’m all for it. Though, I seriously doubt I’ll ever listen to it all. So, then… can art even be art if it can’t be endured? You make the call. Either way, it’s a ballsy, obnoxious, thrilling, stupid, career-defying, funny and arrogant slap in the face to all who would analyze it, defend it, dissect it, believe it, trust it, like it or loathe it. That it’s out on Blue Ray, DVD and QUAD vinyl is, well… to be expected in this age of extremes. For vinyl hounds particular about the warmth of their fidelity, you can find the 2011 vinyl version at Amazon, HERE. We’ve got some more Lou & The Velvets in the archives, HERE. Lou passed away today, October 27th.

Metal Machine Music, Part I (16:11)
Metal Machine Music, Part II (15:53)
Metal Machine Music, Part III (16:14)
Metal Machine Music, Part IV (15:56)

 

53 Comments

  • 1
    JR Heat Warp
    March 29, 2010 - 15:25 | Permalink

    Wait…a QUAD vinyl reissue? I love it!

  • 2
    Capt. Willard
    March 29, 2010 - 15:28 | Permalink

    I knew there'd be at least one.

  • 3
    The Unheard
    March 29, 2010 - 15:47 | Permalink

    Actually, I purchased the vinyl and quad DVD versions, don't have blu-ray and don't believe in it. That said, the vinyl is actually a stereo mixdown of the quad version while the DVD and blu-ray are true quad. Unfortunately, none of it is really super high-end because the max quality on it is apparently 16 Bit, 48 khz. That's fine, but I expected higher quality for a DVD and blu-ray reissue. Also, no bonuses beyond the music. Nonetheless, had to have it and loving it to death!

  • 4
    Pete
    March 29, 2010 - 15:49 | Permalink

    OMG check out the page at loureed.com — for a mere $43 (+ tax, handling & shipping) you can get the 180 Gram Vinyl with Blu Ray Package!

    Look, I was always curious but never willing to pony up 99 cents in the cut-out bin. So this'll do nicely. How much of it I actually listen to is another question. I have played Neil Young's Arc all the way through at least once. Possibly even twice.

  • 5
    Gummo
    March 29, 2010 - 16:16 | Permalink

    Aw, c'mon, what guitarist with an electric guitar, an amp and a tape recorder hasn't made tapes like this at one time or another?

    Lou just had the balls to release it!

  • 6
    Gummo
    March 29, 2010 - 16:21 | Permalink

    And wasn't the original release on RCA's CLASSICAL label?

  • 7
    Gummo
    March 29, 2010 - 16:32 | Permalink

    Okay, I just listened to the whole of side 1 that you have posted.

    I think it turned my brain into tapioca.

  • 8
    Johnny Pierre
    March 29, 2010 - 16:57 | Permalink

    I had this album back in the day and would put it on at the end of every month whenever I needed my housemates to cough up their portion of the rent. I've always tried to imagine what the mixdown session for this record was like (how many RCA engineers slashed their wrists etc.)

  • 9
    Art Ducko
    March 29, 2010 - 17:08 | Permalink

    Ffffrrzzzzzzz, ssskkkkk, wubbitywubbitywubbity, bloooooopbloopbloop, rrrrrsssppp, chungachungachunga, schwing!

  • 10
    Groucho
    March 29, 2010 - 17:12 | Permalink

    That's easy for you to say.

  • 11
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2010 - 17:27 | Permalink

    A friend of mine had this on 8 track tape back in the day. We'd drive around in his car listening to GRINDGRINDGRINDGRINDGRINDsilencesilenceKCHUNKsilencesilenceGRINDGRINDGRINDGRIND

  • 12
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2010 - 17:29 | Permalink

    I tried to download this, but all I get is this hideous noise. The file must be corrupted.

  • 13
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2010 - 17:48 | Permalink

    The dynamics shown on the mini player are hilarious. It's just a wall of full volume sound with little variation for 16 min. A wall of sound isn't necessarily a bad thing.

  • 14
    Capt. Willard
    March 29, 2010 - 15:15 | Permalink

    .
    .
    .
    Search HERE
    .
    .
    .

  • 15
    Dfactor
    March 29, 2010 - 20:09 | Permalink

    >>> Anonymous said…
    I tried to download this, but all I get is this hideous noise. The file must be corrupted.

    HAHAHAHAHA….

  • 16
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2010 - 20:24 | Permalink

    Think of Sister Ray without the vocals and you get Metal machine Music. I didn't like Sister Ray, so I won't like this one….gonna give it a listen anyhow.

  • 17
    Arnie
    March 29, 2010 - 20:42 | Permalink

    You're comparing it to something before even hearing it? You can't compare MMM to anything musical.

  • 18
    Anonymous
    March 29, 2010 - 22:29 | Permalink

    METALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMEALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEMUSICMETALMACHINEM

    This is what Lester Bangs original review in Creem Magazine looked like only 100 times longer! boboquisp

  • 19
    Reggie
    March 29, 2010 - 23:57 | Permalink

    I gave it a listen.

    Suddenly, my nephews making armpit-farts holds more appeal.

  • 20
    Anonymous
    March 30, 2010 - 00:55 | Permalink

    The problem with MMM was the attempt to sell it as a crossover rock album with the cheesy tour photos. To anyone familiar with 60's-70's "experimental music", such as Lamont Young, Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveras; MMM was not a weird shocking record. Now if you ignored the glam poses and read the text on the cover, you probably could have seen " no intruments" and "electronic instrumental composition." It made sense when I got it, a few months after release with a slit in the corner of the cover, it probably was not going to sound like "Switched On Bach" or Tomitas "Snowflakes." I think my first impression was. " yeah, it sounds like Sister Ray, without drums or vocals…slowed down…cool". It's interesting, now you can get the lo-fi amphilfied drone music John Cale was recording in the mid-sixties, which Lou certainly would have been familiar with:

    http://www.amazon.com/New-York-1960s-Vol-Blindness/dp/B00005B4EK/ref=ntt_mus_ep_dpi_lnk

    Now the credit for the cover reads: Lou Reed/Acy Lehman. I 'd like to think Lou contributed the text on a couple typewritten sheets and the graphic designer guy is responsible for the photos and layout.

    Let's not forget Metal Machine Music has now been scored for small orchestra by the German group Zeitkratzer

    http://www.amazon.com/Metal-Machine-Music-Zeitkratzer/dp/B000RXYU42/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1269892809&sr=1-2

    and Lou's been out there gigging the album of late

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWV5wGRl-Jo&feature=relate

    thank you very much for many wonderful visits to your blog…while dumpster diving on the digital highway

    Tom Wheeler

  • 21
    Reggie
    March 30, 2010 - 01:15 | Permalink

    Tom Wheeler….did you ever DJ at a small-town radio station in southern MN in the 80's?

  • 22
    Ken K.
    March 30, 2010 - 03:54 | Permalink

    I bought the eight track the week it came out. That weekend, it ended up in an illegal bonfire at Goat Rock near Bodega. I didn't understand it then. Listening to it today, I conclude that it is too much effort to "get it". I'd much rather enjoy the mental image of RCA executives putting this out on street date, then taking a bottle of liquor to a hiding place behind the couch. Must have been something.

    So,although Lou has been pretentious before and since, I vote no on the artistic vision, yes on the "fuck you".

  • 23
    Ken K.
    March 30, 2010 - 03:56 | Permalink

    By the way the BONUS on the BONUS EDITION is that there are no extra tracks.

  • 24
    bigsteveno
    March 30, 2010 - 04:21 | Permalink

    Open minds and open ears are good things, people. There are other kinds of music besides rock.

  • 25
    Reggie
    March 30, 2010 - 04:31 | Permalink

    Ya, I'm sure you're listening to this album a lot bigsteveno. I don't enjoy this album, but that in no way implies that I didn't approach it with an open mind and an open ear.

  • 26
    Anonymous
    March 30, 2010 - 07:47 | Permalink

    Side three was always my favorite, but it also depended on my meds – I mean mood.

    Emerson
    oldpunks.com

  • 27
    Anonymous
    March 30, 2010 - 07:58 | Permalink

    Lou was always a bit of a moody lad I saw him in 77 my first gig! amazing with no connection with the audience whatsoever just a brief goodbye…. He invented a whole scene with the Underground I think we can let him have this one!…Let's have some more Lou Willard you seem to have a pretty good response rate on this album..6pt

  • 28
    Art Ducko
    March 30, 2010 - 09:55 | Permalink

    I'm still waiting for the unplugged version.

  • 29
    J Neo Marvin
    March 30, 2010 - 13:05 | Permalink

    This was always a fun one to put on at parties in the 70s. Thanks for the memories.

  • 30
    Hugo
    March 30, 2010 - 15:08 | Permalink

    We used to use MMM to clear the neighborhood of its feral cat population.

  • 31
    Anonymous
    March 30, 2010 - 15:54 | Permalink

    It was a big Screw Ya, wasn't it? Precipitated his move to Arista, if I remember correctly.
    The ONLY place I ever remember it being sold was this record shop in Chicago back around 1980. It was an import that had been marked down from 18 bucks to $1.99. Bought it and istantly recognized it for the rent buster that it was. This and The Shaggs could clear a room quick as shit back in the day.
    Good stuff in the comments. What I find most interesting is that it still is quite contentious (35 YEARS after release)–Lou would, at the very least, probably like that.

  • 32
    emort
    March 30, 2010 - 20:24 | Permalink

    worst album ever…hands down

  • 33
    Chance
    March 30, 2010 - 20:53 | Permalink

    Well, at the risk of sounding like the most pretentious dick in the boat, I have to say, no joke, I genuinely find this beautiful to listen to. Whenever the topic of the album comes up, I always describe it as "a cathedral of random drones." That's how I hear it, a shimmering cathedral, full of eternity and echo, packed wall to wall with crackling whirlwinds of beautiful light. (I warned ya!)

    And I listen to it, start to finish, at least once or twice a year. It is easily, no contest, my favorite Lou item after the Velvets. I'm probably the only person alive who can be described as having "eagerly" bought the 25th anniversary edition. (But, yeah, I absolutely understand people recoiling in horror. You have to love the whole drone thing, which I do in spades.)

    Sun Blindness Music is really gorgeous, too.

  • 34
    Anonymous
    March 31, 2010 - 00:19 | Permalink

    You didn't like Sister Ray!? Wash your mouth out with soap.

  • 35
    Paul McClelland
    March 31, 2010 - 01:29 | Permalink

    I'm listening to this thing while I'm reading all of the comments, and I'm laughing out loud, I swear to God. When is the 2 CD anniversary edition coming out, with the different re-mixes??quaAaAaAanNnNg-SccHHrrRReeEEeEEEEeE''''

  • 36
    Anonymous
    March 31, 2010 - 06:22 | Permalink

    Dave Navarro is a fan of this shit. Enough said

  • 37
    Art Ducko
    March 31, 2010 - 09:10 | Permalink

    Now I want the Time/Life edition.

  • 38
    Lou Reed
    March 31, 2010 - 09:52 | Permalink

    Hey, any messages for me? My answering machine's been on the fritz for ages. Sounds like shit when you try to play it back.

  • 39
    La Piazza Gancio
    March 31, 2010 - 16:24 | Permalink

    The fact that there are, to date, forty comments pretty much tells you all you need to know.

  • 40
    Reggie
    April 1, 2010 - 09:15 | Permalink

    God knows that if Dave Navarro likes it, then we ALL must. Possibly the worst rationale I've ever heard.

  • 41
    Art Ducko
    April 2, 2010 - 09:13 | Permalink

    Also the Rockband edition…

  • 42
    Anonymous
    April 8, 2010 - 02:22 | Permalink

    Johnny Kinkdom sez: Met Lou in 1987 and he said this album would one day be considered as important as his Velvets work. I laughed out loud. I guess Lou gets the last laugh. Still, it is included in my top 10 all time worst albums by people who should know better. I'd rather listen to Neil's ARC, and that is also on my worst list.

  • 43
    Anonymous
    April 10, 2010 - 23:29 | Permalink

    Has anyone else noticed…
    that playing with the balance reveals the left and right channels are isolated? It sounds like Mr. Reed recorded it in mono, and plastered a second pass onto the oposite channel, to make it better of course!

  • 44
    Art Ducko
    April 11, 2010 - 09:43 | Permalink

    No, back to mono, Lou!

  • 45
    Mylene McSnapper
    April 29, 2010 - 08:29 | Permalink

    The playing time on MMM is worked out to the second. If you want complete separation between the two channels on a 12" vinyl record with no leakage the total playing time can't be any longer than 17 minutes. That's why it sounds like two separate tracks played together. People born in the CD age can't fully appreciate this. LOu was obviously a genius :-p

  • 46
    3410
    October 27, 2013 - 16:55 | Permalink

    RIP. One of the greats.

  • 47
    3410
    October 27, 2013 - 23:20 | Permalink

    I’ve been blasting Lou Reed all afternoon; ‘VU’, ‘Another View’. ‘1969 Live’, ‘Berlin’, ‘Rock and Roll Heart’, ‘VU & Nico’, ‘Loaded’…

  • 48
    Grant
    October 28, 2013 - 00:01 | Permalink

    Whew. This is a big loss for fans of modern music. Much respect to you, Lou – and thanks for this share, Willard.

  • 49
    Kurt
    October 28, 2013 - 03:03 | Permalink

    Thanks for all the music. RIP, Lou you will be missed.
    Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free!
    I follow the plan God laid for me.
    I saw His face, I heard His call,
    I took His hand and left it all…
    I could not stay another day,
    To love, to laugh, to work or play;
    Tasks left undone must stay that way.
    And if my parting has left a void,
    Then fill it with remembered joy.
    A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss…
    Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
    My life’s been full, I’ve savoured much:
    Good times, good friends, a loved-one’s touch.
    Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—
    Don’t shorten yours with undue grief.
    Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
    Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.

  • 50
    buzzbabyjesus
    October 28, 2013 - 11:18 | Permalink

    By the time I finally heard MMM, I was disappointed it was so musical sounding.

  • 51
    Thomas Parker
    October 30, 2013 - 00:38 | Permalink

    “If art isn’t entertainment, what is it? Punishment?” – Pauline Kael

  • 52
    Stephen Parkin
    November 4, 2013 - 10:28 | Permalink

    I used to play this while having dialysis, to block out the radio that everyone else in the unit wanted and allow me to read without distraction. I usually played it twice through so I must have played it more than any other Lou Reed recording. By the end I had come to know it too well so it was getting as distracting as the radio – I’d know what was coming next.

    Anyone who doesn’t like it, you have to give it time. After a bit it starts to sound beautiful. Goodbye, Lou.

  • 53
    Anonymous
    September 21, 2014 - 03:28 | Permalink

    I love this album, I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve listened to it many times and consider it an environmental album similar to the Eno ambient records. Of course, it isn’t necessarily an environment everyone wants to inhabit but, sooner or later, everyone gets to a point in their lives where this makes perfect sense.

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