Sad news yesterday — Lou Reed died at the age of 71. The former leader of the Velvet Underground and an iconic singer/songwriter/performer in his own right, Reed had also established himself as an increasingly widely-known cultural icon by the late ‘70s through his collaborations with the likes of Andy Warhol and David Bowie. By 1985, he and his 1972 composition “Walk On The Wild Side” would be featured in a national commercial for Honda scooters. His influence continues to be felt to this day: I was just commenting to my son last weekend about another 1972 song of his off Transformer, “Perfect Day”, being an apt choice to promote the addicting Sony PlayStation 4. On a more personal level, I fondly remember encountering his godfather-ly personage numerous times at various events, concerts, and openings around Manhattan during my sojourn there in the early ‘90s — it was also like he was an unofficial mayor of sorts.
It is in this frame of mind that one can look at a number of films and videos from Manhattan’s No-Wave movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Although Reed is not literally present (in fact, at times he himself belittled the movement), his influence is pervasive either directly or indirectly. His casually transgressive attitude and sonic, often guitar-based, experiments — dating from as far back as the 1964 “Ostrich” single through the Velvet Underground’s albums and his 1975 solo Metal Machine Music — provided inspiration to proto-industrial sleaze performers such as Lydia Lunch (viewable in Lydia Lunch – Video Hysterie: 1978-2006) Watch Now and the coterie of artists and groups viewable in the 1978-1982 Tv Party cable-access series. Watch Now
One of those most directly influenced by Reed was Robert Quine, who went from making historic bootleg tapes of the Velvets to forming the punk band Voidoids with Richard Hell. He also performed in Uli Lommel’s essential film Blank Generation (1980) (named for a Voidoids composition, the film also features appearances from Andy Warhol and Walter Steding of the Tv Party Orchestra). Quine would go on to become one of the greatest ‘punk’ guitarists for hire, and collaborating with his hero, Reed, on the albums Blue Mask (1982), and Legendary Hearts(1983).
Just how deeply entrenched the influence of Reed’s work has become is once again obvious when one compares the Blue Mask‘s album cover to that of contemporary hit-makers Daft Punk’sRandom Access Memories.
It’s a sad day. But there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Reed’s work touched millions and that his legacy will carry on forever.
Blank Generation is available on demand for free at Demand.FilmOn.