Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lou Reed: Rock N' Roll Diary 1967-1980

"You know I'd really love to hear Frank Sinatra do "Heroin". Really. It would be just incredible to hear Frank Sinatra coming out with that song on some middle of the road radio station. Because that song does not mince words."
Lou Reed
Me and my brother bought Rock N' Roll Diary back when I was 13. He kept the double vinyl in his room and I put in on tape - old school file-sharing. It damaged me in a many ways.

1. It convinced me that the the Velvet Underground were only Lou's backing band.
The Velvets' half of this album downplays Cale's experimentalism, excises Nico altogether and never lets Moe tucker sing a word. It's blatant revisionism but it's beautiful.

2. It made me believe Lou Reed's solo career was dull, dull, dull.
Based on the weakness of the (supposedly ill-chosen) solo half of this set, especially when compared to the cold-blooded brilliance of the Velvets' half (which actually has "Walk on the Wild Side"!), I've never given Lou's solo career a proper chance. I know, I know, I know....

(if 1 and 2 seem contradictory remember how hard is is to unlearn teenage learning

3. It tainted my view of the Stooges, the MC5 and the New York Dolls.
Those band's debut albums, all played in my Punk 101 class taught by my music critic brother-in-law, did impress me and I've never begrudged those albums' their deserved stature. But hearing "I'm Waiting For My Man", "White Light/White Heat", "I Heard her Call My Name", "Pale Blue Eyes","Beginning to See the Light" , "Sweet Jane" "Rock and Roll", "Heroin"and "Femme Fatale*, in a motherfucking row made those other underground legends sound like mere noise-mongers and fashion-plates (NTTAWTT).

* Live Lou version.

4. It separated me from my peers forever.
There was always a few kids who liked the Clash or whatever else but the Velvets were the first band I liked that none of my peers had ever heard of. From here on in I was doomed to share in the obscurity of the things that I loved.

I've posted this album because this collection is out-of-print (it may have never been on CD) but it is my hope that every reader here interested enough to take it does, and will continue to, support the Velvet Underground and even some of those strange twist and turns of the surviving members' solo careers.


  1. This was my first Lou/Velvets album too, I bet. (actually, I think I had some kind of weird MGM Velvets best-of, if that's possible). And it definitely made me into a dogmatic Velvet Underground fan. But I also loved the Lou solo stuff, mostly.

    It certainly is an odd selection. 3 songs from Berlin? Really? The thing is though, I'd say that this version of Coney Island Baby (from his best-and-only stand-up album) as well as Street Hassle, were a couple of the best things he'd ever done. (remembering that 1980 was before the Quine/Saunders albums).

    And out of all the other throwaways on sides 3 and 4 I'm still inordinately fond of All Through the Night.

    I'm pretty sure I already have all this stuff downloaded somewhere, but I'm going to grab this just for the nostalgia of it. Thanks!

  2. Hi MRML,Thanks for the second LP of the out pf print VU Lp. As a thank you I'm adding two links of mine, One to a great Lou Reed Boot live @ the Bottem Line and the 2nd is Moe Tucker Live in 2002 both great sound quality. Note Lou's vocals on Satellite of Love, he reminds me of Johnny Rotten ? cool stuff !!! anyways here ya go...

    Enjoy :D

  3. erik
    I read some reviews (Trouser press calls the solo half as 'spotty') that questioned the choice of material. One day I'll have to investigate Lou's solo career (I mean other than New York which I listened to a lot in the eighties.)

    You're a hero (and now the author of my first official guest post).

  4. There's just WAY to much I can say about my relationship to "Rock & Roll Diary".

    I picked it up as an early teenster searching for the Roots Of Metal. I was already a huge fan of The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Cream so, of course, The Velvet Underground were the next logical (?!?!?) step up/down the "Made A Big Noise In The 60's" ladder (needless to say, "I Heard Her Call My Name" paid me off in spades in that department!)

    My classic rock self glommed onto "Rock & Roll" and "Sweet Jane" immediately. "I'm Waiting For The Man" and "White Light - White Heat" were also great but, oddly, it was the joyful pop of "Beginning To See The Light" and ice cold charms of (the best V.U. version hands down) "Femme Fatale" that charted next highest for me.

    Side two (I had the cassette, natch) was a little less inspiring over all but did have some amazing highlights nonetheless: the fantastic live version of "Coney Island Baby" (kudos erik!), the fearsome bile of "Temporary Thing" and the progressive-rock-for-junkies masterpiece (with Springsteen on it?!?) "Street Hassle".

    I could go on (and on, and on, and they told two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on) but I'll just end with a big thank you to all responsible parties (esp. Head Master Jeffen). Thank you!

  5. CPB
    "Roots of metal" huh? Well, I suppose bands of all types pay homage to the Velvets.

    Thanks for adding a mini-post that was personal and entertaining.

  6. Hahaha I feel the exact same way. I used to be into Flipper, Cows, Black Flag all that stuff. I still enjoy it but I just kind of got out of it. Im still a hateful person haha but yea I dont know it cant compete with bands like The Velvet Underground. I know its not pc to say this but I never liked the socialist attiude of everybody is equal in a punk band. Im not into stadium rock shit either but VU are really solid musicians. I always enjoy hearing a tasteful lead guitar player like Sterling Morrison. Not everybody is created equal. Not everybody is invited to the party. My two cents. I know im right. Feel free to bitch. I dont care.


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