Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music (RCA CPS2-1101) 8-Track

I must once again beg the indulgence of Thrifty Vinyl readers and contributors, and on at least two grounds, to allow me include this unusual piece. First of all, and most obviously, this is not a vinyl issue but rather that most denigrated of music delivery systems: the 8-Track tape; at any rate, it is an analogue artefact. Secondly, it is not a recent purchase but one I bought it over fifteen years ago. I can vouch that it was purchased at a thrift store, a Salvation Army on Columbus, Ohio’s south side, for 50 cents. Having left my player in the States (along with several Beatles 8-Tracks, which I sold to Used Kids Records), my Stereo 8 copy of the Lou Reed shibboleth (look it up: an excellent word) currently resides with other nick-nacks and googahs on the bookcase above my computer. It from from this aspect that Metal Machine Music looked down on me and the temptation was simply too great after coming away from the Ashford boot fair this morning with nothing worthy of a Thrifty Vinyl blurb (only Peter Brown’s “Crank It Up [Funk Town]“, a mediocre TK Disco 12″). The defence rests.

The fact is, I haven’t listened to Metal Machine Music since coming to the UK thirteen years ago, but I remember it as quite listenable, in a post-rock ambient way, despite its notorious reputation. Sonically, the tape was surprisingly resonent and with the added bonus of the 8-Track’s permanent loop, I reckon it was an ideal MMM experience.

8-Track tape cartridge packaging is as poorly regarded as its sound quality and here is no exception. Reed’s pseudo-scientific epigrams (“*The Amine B Ring”, “An Electronic Instrumental Composition”, “*dextrorotory components synthesis of sympathomimetic musics”) seem even more incongruous in micro point sizing.  And please note the RCA SPECIAL VALUE! hype on the spine. Really, you’ve gotta laugh. At the time, MMM was issued on RCA’s classical music Red Label imprint (though the 8-Track doesn’t seem to be) to distinguish it from Reed’s rock output; not that the photo of Sister Ray in what looks like his live album studded leathers and a Sally Can’t Dance blonde dye job particularly helps.

Anyway, I’m tempted to pick up the recent vinyl re-issue.  What d’ya reckon?

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Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. a beautiful artifact, without doubt – though the fact that it is currently unplayable is a godsend in my view. bloody awful album (and this from someone who likes ‘noise’ music on general principle – i just never found it sonically or emotionally engaging, its just a fucking racket!)

  2. Man – very very jeolous indeed – almost bought the oringinal vinyl once – regret not having grabbed it – used to listen to the CD version repeatedly when living in Hong Kong – suited the urban squallor … was thinking of actually doing an 8-track Hacker Farm release – but can’t find a recorder !!

    For sure grab the re-uissue – classic LP !!!

  3. Ah yes, the album for which the phrase “contractual obligation” was coined, although no-one seems to know if the ever-oblique Mr Reed meant it as such, or was submitting a sincere musical statement…

    Having been aware of its legend for many years, I finally spotted a copy in a second-hand record shop so gave it a play just out of sheer curiosity (I think I managed to last about 30 seconds a side). For all I could tell it might as well have been the same track on all four sides (not that I was prepared to find out ha ha). What I found amusing about it was that all four sides were credited with exactly the same timing (and then suddenly cutting off). But why 16.01 instead of a nice round 16 minutes – was the “listener” meant to search for some deep meaning in that as well as in the “music”?

    I would suggest that despite (or because of) its notoriety, in a way it makes for the ultimate “coffee table” album… and at least Lou doesn’t “sing” on it!

  4. Shibboleth – a word or saying used by (or, in this case, an album listened to by) adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning.

  5. […] “And even that could be a Metal Machine Music-style art […]


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