Teenage Lou Reed Sings Doo-Wop Music (1958–1962)

The Andy Warhol-mas­ter­mind­ed avant-garde rock group The Vel­vet Under­ground brought Lou Reed to the atten­tion of a gen­er­a­tion — it and all of Reed’s artis­ti­cal­ly wide-rang­ing projects would draw notice from gen­er­a­tions there­after. But such a sin­gu­lar per­son­al­i­ty could­n’t have sim­ply appeared, ful­ly formed, along with the Vel­vets. What, then, had he done before that epochal band began play­ing togeth­er in 1965?

The answer, as you can hear in 1962’s “Mer­ry Go Round” and “Your Love,” the pair of sin­gles embed­ded at the top of the post: doo-wop. Though not released in their day, the songs find a cer­tain “Lewis Reed” lay­ing down his very first lead vocals. Years before, in 1958, the pro­duc­er of those songs put out a 45 by the The Jades, the high-school band in which Reed had played but not sung. You can hear the doo-wop tri­o’s “So Blue” below:

“The Jades was­n’t a band, it was just one gui­tar and two oth­er guys singing,” Reed lat­er said. “I was in the back­ground. I wrote the stuff, I did­n’t sing it. We would play shop­ping malls and some real­ly bad vio­lent places. I was always, like, tremen­dous­ly under age, which was pret­ty cool.” You can hear more rem­i­nis­cences of The Jades’ hey­day, such as they had, in this inter­view with lead singer (and Reed’s high-school class­mate) Phil Har­ris. “One evening, at Lou’s house, we start­ed fool­ing around with some lyrics and dur­ing that evening, both ‘So Blue’ and ‘Leave Her for Me’ were writ­ten. In those days, it did­n’t take much imag­i­na­tion to come up with some­thing. You just thought of an expe­ri­ence that you might have gone through and wrote it down.” Instead of con­tin­u­ing with music, Har­ris opt­ed for the U.S. Navy and what he calls “a typ­i­cal life in the work-a-day world.” His band­mate, on the oth­er hand, went on to a long career that seemed to demand no small amount of imag­i­na­tion: being Lou Reed.

via Music for Mani­acs

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Red Shirley, Lou Reed’s Short Doc­u­men­tary on His Fas­ci­nat­ing 100-Year-Old Cousin (2010)

Nico, Lou Reed & John Cale Sing the Clas­sic Vel­vet Under­ground Song ‘Femme Fatale’ (Paris, 1972)

Lou Reed Rewrites Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” See Read­ings by Reed and Willem Dafoe

Sell­ing Cool: Lou Reed’s Clas­sic Hon­da Scoot­er Com­mer­cial, 1984

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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