To this date, Lou Reed still argues the artistic merits of the album. He said in a recent Q interview that he still listens to it, and that "In Brian Eno's diaries, {Eno} stated that two albums that he would describe as 'ambient' came out in the seventies. Music For Airports and Metal Machine Music." How Lou got into those diaries, though...

Lou Reed, on the making of his most controversial album:

“ I would tune all the strings, say, to E, put the guitar a certain distance from the amp, and it would start feeding back. The harmonics would start mixing, going into something else. It was as if the guitar was hitting itself.”

Although Lester Bangs approved of this album (see ailie’s writeup), many other critics did not:

An August 1975 Rolling Stone review by James Wolcott likens Metal Machine Music to “the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator. Lou Reed’s favorite critique was from Billboard magazine: “Recommended cuts: None.”

The album was recorded onto a 4-track “Uher” machine. Reed claimed that when mixing the four tracks into one quadrophonic sound: “I took the tape and just turned it backwards in the other two channels. Ha, ha.” He then split this large segment of feedback into four sixteen-minute segments: Part I, II, III, and IV. Interestingly, the last track on the record contains a “locked-groove”. This makes the section go on forever, forcing one to get up and turn the record player off or “surrender to infinite squeal”.


“I wasn’t just squealing and making noises", Reed insists. “But if you just like loud feedbacking guitars – well, there it is.”

On April 16, 2004, I decided to listen to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, and two Merzbow albums in their entirety on a bus ride to New York City. I would also take notes, detaling my thoughts during the experiment. Unfortunately, three minutes into Merzbow's 1930, I gave up, having completed only Metal Machine Music. The notes for this album follow:

14:42 - Experiment in Progress

It's not so bad actually. Once the initial shock wears off, Metal Machine Music is almost soothing in a way. Of course, there's still sixty plus minutes to go...

14:47

As others board the bus, I think of the concept of iPod Jacking - in which you exchange headphone connections with a stranger. I wonder what they would think of Metal Machine Music.

They would likely run screaming. Yeah.

OW! Loud screechy bit!

It has calmed down a bit now. I'm getting an odd look from the man next to me. Don't worry, friend, you're safe. I'm the one with the weird noise in his ears.

Pause count: 1

14:57

Part 1 finished

15:00

The bus is leaving now.

This is where the fun begins. My noise now competes with the road, the engines, and the air conditioning. Not to mention the TVs.

The music has almost become ambient background noise. Odd.

14:43

It sounds like the tape deck is having an aneurysm. I have to wonder what the studio engineers thought of this mess when it was recorded.

15:07

It is too nice a day for this.

I should be listening to something quiet and pastorial. Pink Floyd's "Grantchester Meadows" comes to mind. This is the soundtrack to a monsoon.

A monsoon, or hurricane with tornadoes too. Wind and rain and disaster, not sunlight and springtime.

Still, it's bearable. I will survive. Hopefully.

15:11

Parts of this album sound like human voices screaming in terror.

This makes perfect sense.

15:13

End Part 2

15:14

You know what? Add "war" to the list of things this is a soundtrack to.

Parts sound like machine gun fire, and the explosion of cluster bombs. Planes fly overhead, buildings explode, people DIE

Not pleasent. Not at all.

15:20

It's hard to believe that all this noise came from guitars.

15:27

I'm... I'm numb

No thoughts. Nothing.

Just NOISE.

SHRIEK SHRIEK!

NOISE!

15:29

End Part 3

15:31

OK... This last part ic COOL.

It sounds like an auroral apocalypse. The world is ending, I can hear it!

Yes!

15:37

For some reason, there is a noise in the background that reminds me of an ice cream truck.

Odd.

15:43

Lou Reed, I hate you.
I also love you.

OW! This bit is just a weird thudding hiss over and over, with a high pitched whistle accompanying. It can't be much longer, can it?

15:45

End of Metal Machine Music.


There you have it. Pure, raw, and evil noise. This is not an album for the faint of heart, or faint of butt. You have been warned.

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