My week beats your year. - Lou Reed

In 1975, Lester Bangs proposed six theories concerning Metal Machine Music. The list appeared in the September issue of Creem Magazine under the title “Monolith or Monotone?

  • 1. The new Lou Reed album is “some kind of ultimate antisocial act.”
  • 2. It is the logical and inevitable culmination of aggressive tendencies that find their roots in early Velvet Underground albums and the Stooges’ Fun House.
  • 3. It is the sound of anxiety. (“You know when you get so tense and anxiety-ridden that all the nerves at the back of your neck snarl up into one burning ball? Well, if that gland could make music, it would sound like this album.”)
  • 4. Metal Machine Music is Reed’s circulatory system amplified.
  • 5. The album is a corporate death wish in the form of a commercial suicide.
  • 6. or “anybody who doesn’t jack off at least three times a day is a queer.”

A few months later, Bangs thought it necessary to add:

“When you wake up in the morning with the worst hangover of your life, Metal Machine Music is the best medicine. Because when you first arise you’re probably so fucked (i.e., still drunk) that is doesn’t even really hurt yet (not like it’s going to), so you should put this album on immediately, not only to clear all the crap out of your head, but to prepare you for what’s in store the rest of the day.”

Ultimately, both Reed and RCA Records thought the material was solid enough to release the album in multiple formats (double LP and 8-track). It seemed like a good idea at the time. Bangs himself admitted to having acquired an additional copy of Metal Machine Music so he could listen to the album in his car.

The belief in the sonic possibilities of Reed’s 1975 effort was such that RCA records decided to make quadraphonic versions of Metal Machine Music available (it was either a bold move or an act of despair from company executives).

Quadraphonic audio formats were introduced early in 1970 and within a few years hundreds of releases became available in both stereo and four-channel surround sound. Unfortunately, Quad technology disappeared before the decade ended but not before Metal Machine Music, the holy grail of 8 track cartridges, hit the market.


Lou Reed ‘Metal Machine Music’