Lou Reed turned 70 last week. That deserves a pause (sigh). And you may have heard that he’s been touring with Metallica (another big sigh). More cause for pause (I have to get their album Lulusoon…)
Some of you may or may not know this bit of music trivia, but Lou Reed cut his teeth as a songwriter for hire back in the early ’60s before he was discovered by Andy Warhol and became famous via David Bowie for walking on the wild side in the 70s. Yes indeed, while others like Carol King and Doc Pomus (who became a close friend of Lou’s) and Elle Greenwich were in the Brill Building (or thereabouts) writing many of the tunes that defined that era (“The Locomotion,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “Uptown,” “Leader of the Pack,” etc.), Lou was working for a subsidiary of budget label Pickwick Records, making sound-alike recordings to flesh out their “hits” packages sold in the bargain bins at many retailers.
One of the songs was actually released as a single, billed as The Primitives; the song was called “Do The Ostrich.” Its a lot of dumb fun and has equally dumb lyrics, but it got released, and it also apparently is the place where Lou met his future co-conspirator in creating The Velvet Underground. But that is another story you probably already know.
Another of these lost Lou Reed tracks is called “Cycle Annie,” which appeared on some of the aforementioned budget compilations. I have long had one (in its original shrink wrap!) called Groovy Greats (lower LP in the photo above), which has a great cover featuring a British Invasion theme — of course none of the artists on the compilation are British. Details. Details.
This album was unfortunately “electronically enhanced for stereo.” But at least it’s in good condition. There is no mention of the Lou Reed track on the cover, but it is the last track on side 2 — nothing like feature billing, eh?
Today I picked up another Design Records album with an equally groovy cover (upper LP in the photo above), only this one is called Out Of Sight!. Yeah baby… it too features tracks that probably weren’t hits, but were recorded by the likes of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Joe Tex, Tommy Roe, Lou Christie, and Vic Dana. It also includes tracks by dubious sounding band names like The Liberty Men, The J Brothers, The Hi Lifes, and The Beachnuts! Yes! Lou’s song “Cycle Annie” gets plugged on the cover of the album! I think that is just Out of Sight.
“You better watch out for…”
Anyhow, you can listen to other early Lou Reed songs on a couple YouTube videos fans have made (below) and some you can even buy in places if you look hard enough. Its worth the hunt.
“Put your head on the floor and have somebody step on it…”
If you want to go further, you can find some of the early Lou Reed singles reissued in various and sundry places. Norton Records issued a nice one some years back compiling some of his earliest recordings with The Jades. You can find copies of that at Discogs.