Lou Reed on YouTube: 10 Incredible Videos
Lou Reed, who died Sunday at 71, left behind four decades of experimental rock and roll, sometimes simplistic and powerful, other times shrill, improvisational, punishing. He could be grumpy and uncooperative onstage, but mostly he just liked to pick up his guitar and rock, from his days with the Velvet Underground to more recent shows with sympathetic sidemen such as bassist Fernando Saunders and singer Antony. Crank these videos from drastically different phases of his career while toasting Reed with his lyrics from 1992: "There's a bit of magic in everything. And some loss to even things out."
Read Rolling Stone's Lou Reed obituary.
Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966)
The footage is mostly blurry, colorful lights, but you can see glimpses of the Velvet Underground in the shadows, including the late, great singer-model Nico, as the band plays "Heroin," "Venus in Furs" and "I'll Be Your Mirror." VU began as the house band at these pioneering New York art events, and while few caught these shows, they became legendary, leading fans to collect them on audio and video tapes for decades.
Velvet Underground at the Boston Tea Party (1969)
Jonathan Richman, who would soon form the Modern Lovers, caught this January 1969 concert at a club in Boston and later wrote: "Sometimes you just plain couldn't figure out where on the stage those strange sounds and harmonics were coming from, because of the eerie calm with which they played and improvised in front of you." This audio-only, hour-and-a-half bootleg contains "Run Run Run," "What Goes On," "I Can't Stand It" and especially thunderous drumming from Moe Tucker. Check out the crescendos in "Heroin."
‘Sweet Jane’ (1974)
The best live solo version of Reed's signature is the dueling-guitar extravaganza from the live Rock N' Roll Animal of the same year. But this one in Paris contains video footage, and it's almost as awesome, with Reed in his dyed-blonde "Sally Can't Dance" hairdo and aviator glasses, scat-singing to guitar and organ solos all over the place.
Press Conference in Sydney, Australia (1974)
Tagged "interview at Sydney airport," this apparent press conference takes place around 1974, with Lou once again in his "Sally Can't Dance" look. The Australian interviewers are as pointedly clueless as the ones who grilled Bob Dylan in Dont Look Back or the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night, and Lou responds with gleeful, monosyllabic contempt. When someone asks Reed why he likes drugs, he responds, "'Cause it's better than Monopoly." And there's this great exchange: "You sing mainly about drugs, is that right?" "Sometimes." "Why do you do this?" "Because I think the government's plotting against me."
Live at the Roxy (1976)
No video here, just a spirited band showcasing the great jazz saxophonist Don Cherry, and a typical solo set list from the time, beginning with "Sweet Jane" and ending with "Walk on the Wild Side," of course, with VU's "Lisa Says" and "I'm Waiting for the Man" and Reed's "She's My Best Friend" in between. The set has a stretched-out, Springsteen-and-Clarence feel, more improvisational than overpowering, but still great.
‘A Night With Lou Reed’ (1983)
One of Reed's best solo sidemen, the late, legendary Robert Quine (who played with Richard Hell's Voidoids), once said of his boss: "He likes to be surrounded by 'yes' men that flatter him, but he's smart enough to know what's going on and he hates them for it, and he ends up with a lot of hack musicians." That is not the case for this hourlong 1983 concert, with Reed, Quine, Saunders (who would stay with Reed for years) and drummer Fred Maher in a beautifully straightforward set. Playing VU and solo classics and then-new songs like the great "Martial Law" and the paranoid "Waves of Fear," Lou is loose and funny, quoting Dirty Harry at one point: "Feeling lucky, punk?"
Honda Scooter Commercial (1984)
Reed was making underrated albums throughout the Eighties – The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, New Sensations, New York – but much of a generation remembers him for the deadpan-cool TV ads he did for American Express and Honda. This one, for scooters, plays a snippet of "Walk on the Wild Side" (sans colored-girls reference and vignette about Candy in the back room) before zooming in on Lou in black leather jacket and shades. "Hey," he says to the camera. "Don't settle for walkin'."
‘Spectacle: Elvis Costello With . . .’ (2008)
In which Reed comes down from the mountaintop and shows Bravo! host Elvis Costello, the audience and the world at large the correct "secret chord" in the middle of "Sweet Jane." Casual in jeans and Nikes, Reed recalled playing the sequence to the Velvet Underground's Sterling Morrison after he came up with it. Replied Sterling: "So?"
‘White Light White Heat’ (2007)
Nobody plays rock 'n' roll power chords better than these two, and the Who's "I Can See for Miles" and this Velvet Underground classic were two sides of the same coin in the Sixties. The guitarists teamed up for the first time ever during Pete Townshend's "Attic Jam" acoustic shows at Joe's Pub in New York City. They did VU's "Pale Blue Eyes" and "Waiting for the Man," too, but Reed's off-the-cuff phrasing and Townshend's inimitable harmonies are strongest here.
Before he became ill, Reed was acknowledging his most beloved songs on stage with high reverence. This 17-minute version of "Heroin," recorded live at the Kunst!Rasen in Bonn, Germany last year, contains both John Cale-style electric viola and a glorious climax of punk-rock noise.