The Outsiders: Lou Reed, Hunter S. Thompson, and Frank Zappa Reveal Themselves in Captivatingly Animated Interviews

Lou Reed thought the Bea­t­les were garbage. Or at least he did when he start­ed out in music, as he reveals in a 1987 inter­view. “We had an ambi­tion and a goal: to ele­vate the rock song and take it where it had­n’t been before,” he says of his first band — per­haps you’ve heard of them — the Vel­vet Under­ground. “I just thought the oth­er stuff could­n’t even come up to our ankles,” he adds. “They were just painful­ly stu­pid and pre­ten­tious. When they did try to get ‘arty,’ it was worse than stu­pid rock-and-roll.” Hav­ing grad­u­at­ed from col­lege want­i­ng to write “the great Amer­i­can nov­el,” Reed even­tu­al­ly decid­ed to incor­po­rate lit­er­a­ture, and all the cul­ture he knew, into music, to “write rock-and-roll that you could lis­ten to as you got old­er and it would­n’t lose any­thing. it would be time­less in the sub­ject mat­ter and the lit­er­a­cy of our lyrics.” The con­ver­sa­tion appears first in “The Out­siders,” a com­pi­la­tion of three record­ings made with three pil­lars of alter­na­tive Amer­i­can cul­ture and imag­i­na­tive­ly ani­mat­ed by Blank on Blank.

The sec­ond, which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, finds Studs Terkel sit­ting down with Hunter S. Thomp­son in 1967, talk­ing about his first book Hel­l’s Angels: The Strange and Ter­ri­ble Saga of the Out­law Motor­cy­cle Gangs. “The Angels came out of World War Two,” Thomp­son explains, “this whole kind of alien­at­ed, vio­lent, sub­cul­ture of peo­ple wan­der­ing around look­ing for either an oppor­tu­ni­ty, or if not an oppor­tu­ni­ty, then vengeance for not get­ting an oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

But if peo­ple insist on think­ing of the Angels and their kind as the only vio­lent trou­ble­mak­ers in exis­tence, “then it’s just putting off the recog­ni­tion that the same ven­om that the Angels are spew­ing around in pub­lic, a lot of peo­ple are just keep­ing bot­tled up in pri­vate.” In explor­ing the cul­ture of the Angels, Thomp­son found that the ven­om filled him no less than it does every­one else: “I was see­ing a very ugly side of myself a lot of times. I’m much more con­scious of the kind of anger that lurks every­where.”

The third, a 1971 inter­view with Frank Zap­pa, takes on the sub­ject of fads. Zap­pa con­sid­ered every­thing a fad, includ­ing the sup­posed polit­i­cal awak­en­ing of youth in the 60s: “It’s as super­fi­cial as their musi­cal con­scious­ness. It’s just anoth­er aspect of being involved in the actions of their peer group. One guy in the group says, ‘Hey, pol­i­tics,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, pol­i­tics.’ Or they go, ‘Grand Funk Rail­road,’ and they go, ‘Yeah, Grand Funk Rail­road. It’s the same thing.’ ” In Amer­i­ca Zap­pa saw “a lot of changes, but I think that they’re all tem­po­rary things, and any change for the good is always sub­ject to can­cel­la­tion upon the arrival of the next fad.” That’s what hap­pens, he explains, in a coun­try that “does­n’t have any real cul­ture. It does­n’t have any real art. It does­n’t have any real any­thing. It’s just got fads and a gross nation­al prod­uct and a lot of infla­tion.” Does that, asks inter­view­er Howard Smith, make Zap­pa him­self a fad as well? “I’m an Amer­i­can, I was born here,” Zap­pa replies. “I auto­mat­i­cal­ly got entered in a mem­ber­ship in the club.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ani­ma­tions Revive Lost Inter­views with David Fos­ter Wal­lace, Jim Mor­ri­son & Dave Brubeck

New Ani­ma­tion Brings to Life a Lost 1974 Inter­view with Leonard Cohen, and Cohen Read­ing His Poem “Two Slept Togeth­er”

Watch Janis Joplin’s Final Inter­view Reborn as an Ani­mat­ed Car­toon

Young Pat­ti Smith Rails Against the Cen­sor­ship of Her Music: An Ani­mat­ed, NSFW Inter­view from 1976

An Ani­mat­ed Bill Mur­ray on the Advan­tages & Dis­ad­van­tages of Fame

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Dave says:

    I like Lou and the Vel­vet Under­ground but he just sounds like a jack­ass here. Lou was incred­i­bly unique, but the mem­bers of the Bea­t­les and the Doors had way more musi­cal sen­si­bil­i­ty. He sounds envi­ous.

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