Read Lou Reed's savage criticisms of other musicians

First Velvets LP: 1966

First Mothers LP: 1966

Cale was playing with Tony Conrad pre-Velvets, but Zappa was performing his own avant classical music pre-Mothers, so it’s really a tie in terms of who came first.


They were contemporary with Zappa, who earliest work (pre-Mothers) was in the early 60s. Cale and Reed met when they were both hired as song writers by Pickwick records in the early to mid 60s. The first Mothers album was 66 and the first VU album was 67, so…

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Recorded April 1966, released March 1967-- so those sessions were done before “Freak Out” was released in June of '66.

And released after it… :woman_shrugging:

These “savage criticisms” were from 1973, when Reed was 31. Young men (and youngish men) say stupid things. I prefer a bit of (fairly) youthful edgelording over the current trend of Old Man Yells At Music.


Well, my point was that if VU was influenced by Zappa, the first LP wouldn’t count, since its recording predates Cale or Reed ever hearing the Mothers.

I was not aware of Reed or Cale ever citing Zappa as an influence, but I wouldn’t rule it out, in fact I like the idea and would be interested in reading more about it.

I wan’t to be mad about this because Lou can be a twat…but these assessments seem pretty accurate as well so…

He was a dick to journalists who wanted to talk about vacuous irrelevancies like his hair colour. Gaiman talked to him about his music and his writing and got an excellent, friendly interview as a result.

Dude, he hung up on Terry Gross, one of the best interviewers out there.


Miles Davis

I think my wife would still like to kick him in the balls for one of his gigs in Italy (1991).

We weren’t even dating at the time, but the morning after at work she was so angry I had to ask what happened; here it is in a pinch:

His group came out and started to play.
Then continued to play.
Then some more.
After a couple of hours, Davis comes out, blows five minutes of raspberries in his trumpet and disappears again till the end of the concert.


To the contrary, I gather that the (at least public) antipathy was mutual – Sterling Morrison, in Up-Tight, mentions how Zappa kept slagging the VU from the stage while they both toured California. (link; this is a newer version of the book than I’m used to reading, and I don’t at all remember the part a couple of pages earlier – quoted in Mark’s BB entry above). So that may or may not have led to what Reed saying what he said.

(Also, now that I’ve re-read the rest of that page, the VU/Exploding Plastic Inevitable crowd – specifically, Morrison & Paul Morrissey – really didn’t think much of Bill Graham nor the SF scene in general.)

I guess the VU’s feelings about Zappa must’ve been well-known, because after Morrison died, I remember reading this:

There was something in the way he was slagging Frank Zappa that told me it had to be the ex-Velvet who had ended up in Austin.


Zappa was (from what I’ve read) self-taught, but influenced by (for example) Edgard Varèse. Cale was classically trained, and (I didn’t remember this before now) had organized a Fluxus event before he came to the U.S., then worked with John Cage & La Monte Young after his arrival. As far as I know Zappa & Cale did what they did in parallel, but independent of one another (and on opposite coasts).


I saw Laurie years ago at a gig at the South Bank in London, and while looking round the hall as people were coming in to take their seats, I suddenly realised that Lou was sat two rows behind me!
Outstanding gig, I love Laurie’s work. Ambivalent about much of Lou’s, though.


This early concert piece is from May 1963 (you may know it already), so it pre-dates Cale playing with Cage and La Monte Young by a few months. Clearly Zappa would have been writing it for a long time before the concert, so probably the same time as whatever Cale was doing in Europe. For the record, I love and respect all these guys, even with their various faults.

I wish more of this concert were available, Zappa’s humor is evident even this early.


Reed talked about “talent” the same way Trump talks about “smart.”

Zappa could be pretty brutal too. These guys had similar take no bullshit attitudes even if they hated each other. Reed was easily the first “punk” and Zappa was making “prog” years before Fripp, Yes or ELP.


This just in…Lou Reed was an asshole. I’ve only met a few people who had any actual interaction with Reed, and every one of them related some tale of him being an asshole. I still like some of the stuff he did, but I’m glad I never had to interact with him.


I love his music, but I would have not wanted to meet him. He could be a real jerk.

After Stephen Sondheim died, Fresh Air replayed an interview with him after the publication of his book. In the book, Sondheim makes some stinging criticisms of what he sees as the flaws not only in his own work but in that of other great lyricists (including his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein).

In the interview he made a point of saying that he was only doing this with people who were dead. He thought practitioners tearing down other practioners while they were alive was bad form, not only because (as he joked) they could fight back but really because it was inevitably hurtful to them.

Of course, he was much older when he wrote the book than Lou Reed was when he made these comments. However, as the posthumous tributes pointed out, after achieving fame at a relatively young age Sondheim spent his entire career going out of his way to be kind and encouraging to other artists even as he criticised them. He did this without losing his reputations as a demanding, exacting and rigorous artist.

I hope, as others have pointed out, that an older and wiser Reed realised this was possible thanks to the help of friends like Anderson and thanks to finding peace in Buddhism.

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Why is it so hard to separate art from the artist?

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Well, he got quite chummy with Lauren Laverne: