As Lulu approaches, here’s Jon Kerr’s run down of Lou Reed’s career leading up to the recent collaboration with thrash stalwarts Metallica…
Reed was born Lewis Allen Reed in Brooklyn, New York a full twenty years before the future members of Metallica unloaded into the world. He was a founding member of arts rock band The Velvet Underground, in 1965, with John Cale and others. The band became known for working in Andy Warhol’s multimedia collective the Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
Whilst Ulrich, Hetfield and co. were infants, The Velvet Underground produced seminal rock albums The Velvet Underground & Nico and Loaded. After this, Reed went solo and has since produced over twenty studio albums under his own name. The first – and most essential – of these was Transformer featuring signature tunes ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and ‘Perfect Day’ with David Bowie and Mick Ronson at the desk.
In 1975, Reed’s controversial album Metal Machine Music featured very little music – and certainly no metal whatsoever! It’s basically feedback.
On to the eighties. Metallica formed, switched guitarists and released their first two albums by 1984. Reed moved into something of a political era, making appearances at such festivals as Farm Aid and the Amnesty International tour. Meanwhile, Master of Puppets comes out and Cliff Burton meets his untimely end.
The Velvet Underground reformed for several reunion tours in the early nineties, while Metallica endure the infamous Black Album recording sessions. Then, just as Metallica enter their Load era, The Velvet Underground are inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame – an honour later to be bestowed upon Metallica in 2009. Another similarity is that both were the subject of a long-form documentary: Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart in 1998 and Some Kind of Monster in 2004.
The early noughties become a time of change. For Reed, it led to a focus on poetry. This culminated in the double concept album The Raven based on the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. In the same year, 2003, Robert Trujillo joins Metallica and arguably their weakest album, St. Anger, is released.
Whilst Metallica tried to repair the damage, Reed released Hudson River Wind Meditations as his 20th solo album. It’s music to do Tai Chi to. No, really. Metallica were then inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, thirteen years later than The Velvet Underground, on the back of their Death Magnetic LP. Reed joined Metallica onstage to play “Sweet Jane” and “White Light/White Heat” at Lollapalooza, in celebration of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s 20th Anniversary that same year. It was at this even that talk of a collaboration is said to have started…
What was to become LULU was recorded in about a month. It’s thematically linked to a play by Frank Wedekind and is said to have been chiefly written by Reed with Metallica contributing arrangement ideas. It’s due for release on 31 October 2011.