Lou Reed And John Cale, Twin Architects Of The Velvet Underground, Jammed Together For The First Time At A High School In The Lehigh Valley

Sans titre18


According to Transformer, Victor Bockris’ exceptional Lou Reed bio, the first time Lou and John Cale played together was in 1965 at a gig at a high school in…wait for it, the Lehigh Valley.* After graduating Syracuse, Lou got himself hired as a house composer at Long Island’s Pickwick Records, a low budget record label specializing in cheap knock-offs of pop culture originals. High on methedrine, he wrote “The Ostrich” — think “Hang On Sloopy” covered by The Cramps — to cash in on the Do The…dance craze, as was the style of the day. The single was released in late 1964 under the name The Primitives, a non-existent group invented by Pickwick to cash in on the band-of-dudes-with-pudding-bowl-haircuts-wearing-black-turtlenecks-and-Beatle-boots band craze, as was the style of the day. TransformerPickwick booked tour dates for The Primitives, fronted by Lou and a live band thrown together by Pickwick, that included Cale, noted minimalist Tony Conrad and drummer Angus MacLise, all of whom played together in La Monte Young’s Dream Syndicate. They were hired by a Pickwick exec at an Upper West Side party because ‘they looked like a band.’ Without bothering to rehearse, The Primitives performed ”The Ostrich,” cue screaming teenage girls and the ersatz hysteria of phony Beatlemania. When it was over, the DJ hollered into the mic “These guys have got something, sure hope it isn’t catching!” “The Ostrich” never became a hit — it’s a hot mess, truth be told — and The Primitives didn’t last more than a month or two. But the budding friendship and steadily intensifying creative partnership of Reed and Cale persisted and flowered into The Velvet Underground, taking their name from a smutty S&M novel that Tony Conrad found laying in the gutter in Greenwich Village. 1965. I missed the birth of the Velvet Underground in my own back yard by one year. — JONATHAN VALANIA

*The significance of this fact is only apparent if you know that the author was born in the Lehigh Valley in 1966.