Jan 302010

Lou Reed is reissuing the Metal Machine Music album, remastered and in a variety of formats.

The Amine B Ring

The Amine B Ring

Details are available at Lou’s website.

I hadn’t remembered that it was originally quadrophonic, and the quad mix will be available. There will even be a Blu-ray version. I’m fine with the CD version I have.

Pitchfork is also reporting that there will be a European tour where he will be accompanied by a couple of fellow traveling noiseniks. One of them, Ulrich Krieger, was the man behind the rerecording of the piece done mostly with acoustic instruments and excerpted here, with the master sitting in:

I will report back if I hear of North American dates, because this is one you wouldn’t want to miss.


  21 Responses to “Metal Machine Music: As It Was Meant to Sound”

  1. Some unsuspecting guy was goading social network peeps to suggest albums to review, mad that no one took him up on his offer. I stepped up and asked him to review MMM, which he’d never heard of. He seemed excited and said he’d soon return with his thoughts. That was the last I’d seen of him!

  2. 2000 Man

    Why would anyone buy a reissue of that? Why would Lou even work on the project? Is he trying to make people think it really was a serious piece, and not just a giant FU to everyone in the world?

  3. dbuskirk

    I hope Lou tours to promote it, performing the whole album beginning-to-end in sequence.

  4. hrrundivbakshi

    Proof once again that when the Germans get too much free time on their hands, bad things happen.

  5. BigSteve

    MMM is both a giant FU to everyone in the world and a serious piece.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    My question is, when is Lou going to make the score for that piece available to all? Every single sound you hear on MMM was intentional and planned out. It’s probably the greatest musical composition ever, but without the score some skeptical assholes will claim it’s as suspect as the longhorns and buzzards on ZZ Top’s World Wide Texas Tour or Charlie Watt’s actual drumming contributions to Rolling Stones albums.

  7. Okay Steve, I’ll bite. I mean, not for the cost of the re-release, but I’ll listen to your reasoning on why MMM is something that anybody should listen to more than once, and only then for a few minutes. So, make your case, and I promise to listen “without prejudice.”

  8. BigSteve

    It’s a piece of minimalist music. Like other minimalist works it uses drones, stasis, and slow transformation. It seems different from some forms of minimalism because it’s very loud, distorted, arhythmic, and it does not uses simple consonant harmonies. Discreet Music, which came out the same week as MMM, is at the opposite end of the spectrum in that sense, but as Eno has written it is similarly ambient and immersive.

    Some of the pre-VU recordings by John Cale and Tony Conrad released only in the last ten years under the name Inside the Dream Syndicate sound remarkably similar to MMM. Stars of the Lid would be a more recent example of this kind of droney ambience, and nowadays there’s also a whole subgenre of drone metal, which is aggressive like MMM where most ambient music tends toward the spacey.

    So it’s fine with me if anyone doesn’t like this kind of music. It requires a different mindset than rock music, and you might not like the psychological effects of immersing yourself in extended drones. What I’m trying to argue against is the fairly common reaction that MMM is ‘not music’ or that it was nothing more than an FU. It’s part of a wider tradition of music, and it deserves to be taken seriously.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    I confess, I never bought MMM when I could have bought it on vinyl (it was always too expensive for my then meager budget), and since then I’ve felt like I’d be ridiculed for buying it in some subpar CD version. Now that the album is being released for a set price on vinyl, perhaps it’s time I take the plunge. The one time I heard it I liked it just fine. My post about the score was a goof on an old interview Lou did with Lester Bangs where he made a bunch of claims about the “composition” of this piece that I still have trouble buying.

  10. jeangray

    I’d always read that it was an F.U. to his record label, nothing more. You know, one of those releases that fulfill contractual obligations. Is Mr. Reed indulging in some revisionist history of his own here??

  11. Mr. Reed indulging in revisionist history? I’m shocked!

  12. 2000 Man

    I dunno, BigSteve. I sure felt ripped off when I bought that record. I still have it, and I still feel majorly ripped off enough that I hardly own any Lou Reed. Maybe that is some kind of music, and I wouldn’t be surprised that I don’t “get it,” because I don’t get most music.

    I bought that at a reocord convention. I could have bought damned near anything ever made, and I bought a double album that sounds like an hour of white noise.

  13. BigSteve

    Putting a photo of Lou onstage on the cover was a bad idea. It allowed the buyer to infer that he was getting a live album. I’m sure many people who had no knowledge that this was not a rock album felt ripped off.

    Lester Bangs famously wrote about MMM “As a statement it’s great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integrity….” He was basically prasising the album, but I think the expression stuck, ‘went viral,’ as we say now.

    I don’t know where the idea that it was a contract breaking gesture came from. I can’t prove it didn’t come from the artist himself without doing a lot of research, but with very little research I can discover that MMM was released by RCA in July 1975 and the Coney Island Baby came out also on RCA in February 1976.

    Now after that Lou went over to Arista for Rock and Roll Heart (November 1976), which seems like a commercial move, though it actually charted lower than Coney Island Baby had (#64 compared to #41). So I fail to see how MMM can have been a deal breaker.

  14. alexmagic

    There are rumors that Reed is doing this purely as an attempt to get the first ever “…As It Was Meant To Sound”/”German True Stereo” combo in Rock Town Hall history.

    What I’m hearing is, he was really jealous of the Magical Mystery Tour German True Stereo week held here and, after we failed to bring his Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary performance into the Lab, he was desperate to get featured in the Hall by any means necessary. Look for Walter Becker to retaliate by suddenly starting to wear both a headband and a scarf in all public appearances.

  15. Like it or hate it, it’s Lou Reed’s musical masterpiece. It has taken 2 years for Lou and his hardworking manager Tom to accomplish this reissue. When the Zeitkratzer performance of Metal Machine Music came out a while back, I noticed the comments Lou made in the liner notes, wishing others could have heard the quad mix he did. So I sent an email suggesting a dvd-a release of the quad mix, and that immediately got his interest. And I sent along a DTS CD of a conversion from the Quad LP (done by vector_x, Cai Campbell), which he loved. And so Lou and Tom worked hard to release this themselves.

    There certainly are rumors that this was just a contractual obligation, or that Lou wasn’t serious, but Lou has stated several times that he was serious when he created this and released it. I find it to be brilliant. It’s very different from what many may expect music to be, but for the open minded that can tolerate it and get past the surface, there really is so much going on in the wall of noise that makes it a fascinating listen. The quad mix brings it to a new level, it surrounds you. No longer is it just a wall of sound, it’s a sea of sound, with different things coming at you from all directions surrounding you. It really is quite a musical experience.

    I can’t wait to hear the blu ray when it arrives.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for finding us and leaving these comments, armyofquad! Let us know if you’d like to share more about your role in instigating this reissue and any other inside information you might have on the creation of the original piece and subsequent rumors, etc. I could get in touch with you offlist, if you’d like. There’s a lot of head-scratching and mythology surrounding Metal Machine Music that surely could be addressed.

  17. Well, my role wasn’t that huge in this. I’m a quadraphonic collector, and so I have a copy of the quad LP which I enjoy from time to time. When the SACD and DVD-A formats were created, I was hopeful that it would be the dawn of a new era, more music released in surround, and maybe some of those old quad mixes will get reissued on these formats. Of course, it was not to be. There were a handful of quad mixes that made their way to SACD, but not much. But, I often send emails out to labels, artists, and whoever, suggesting reissuing these quad mixes. So far, Lou was the only one I ever heard back from.

    I never contacted Lou directly, I spoke with his manager Tom on the phone a few times, just to explain the technical end of things I was suggesting. The original idea was to do a dvd-a of Metal Machine Music. The problem is that now Sony has control over the masters, and since dvd-a was the competing format to the sacd, sony wants nothing to do with dvd-a. So, they really didn’t like the idea. I’m not sure what Tom did, but over the course of 2 years, he somehow managed to get Sony to send a digital copy of the master tape and agree to let them do a dvd (not dvd-a), blu ray, and vinyl issue of Metal Machine Music. The vinyl wasn’t my idea, mainly since I knew there wasn’t a way we could really do a surround vinyl version. The equipment to master a cd-4 quadraphonic record either doesn’t exist or isn’t operational anymore from what I’ve heard from others that know these things, plus who has the equipment to play them back anymore. Besides me. But, with the current popularity of vinyl, I suppose it makes sense to use this opportunity to make a vinyl edition of this. I was surprised they went with blu ray. I had suggested it as a possibility when Sony had their objections to dvd-a, but didn’t think it was really a possibility due to it not being really used as an audio format, and the cost of manufacturing being pricey as I understand it. But, Tom found a way.

    As to more details about Metal Machine Music, I only know what info is out there for anyone to find. In interviews he does say he was serious (he also says he was very very stoned). Also, even if you put aside what he says, the suggestion that it was only to get out or fulfill a contract doesn’t make sense, especially when you consider it wasn’t his last album for RCA. It nearly killed his career.

    I myself had always found it odd that it was the only album of his that got a quad mix. But, in a way it does make sense. This is an electric composition of Lou Reed. He had even tried to get it released on the RCA Red Seal label. The earliest use of surround sound can be traced back to electronic compositions. One of the first uses of surround sound, if not the first, was Gesang der Jeunglinge, by Karlheinz Stockhausen, which was also a 4 channel work of electronic music. So, with that in mind, it makes sense that when Lou composed his electronic composition, he also made it in surround.

    I can’t really add much insight into the creation of Metal Machine Music itself. I do recommend checking out the Zeitkratzer CD/DVD. The interview portion on the DVD is quite interesting.

  18. positively fascinating reading armyofquad. Thanks you! I am a big SACD lover and enjoy mixes such as ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery and Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic.

    I am extremely sad that the job done for the release of my favorite heavy rock album of all time was done so poorly. I was shocked to find out Black Sabbath’s Paranoid had been primarily taken from an LP of horrid quality. Sounds like someone wiped their muddy boots on the record it was taken from.

    What is you personal favorite Quad Rock record? (if you have one)

  19. Wow, it’s hard to pick one.

    Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon is a great quad mix. I definitely prefer it to the 5.1 remix that got released on SACD.

    Another great quad mix is Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson.

    I’ve recently worked on making a dvd-a from my Japanese cd-4 of Tomita – The Bermuda Triangle, that was an enjoyable one to listen to.

    The Black Sabbath release was particularly disappointing. Such a screw up. Even if the quad master was lost, that’s no excuse for what they did. In the first place, it was released on 7.5 ips quad reel to reel, which has far superior sound to the cd-4 lp. They could have asked, I’m sure someone would have loaned it out for official release. If I can get my hands on a set of 24 bit 96 kHz files of one of these reels, surly they could have. Plus…there was already an unofficial dvd-a floating around made from a cd-4 record that sounds lightyears better then what they released. They actually made an official release that is worse sounding then the bootlegs.

  20. I agree that this is fascinating (albeit in an abstract sense for me since I’m not an audiophile). I’ve never heard MMM at all, but I’d love to hear it in quad.

  21. Anyone interested in quadraphonic sound should check out our forum, http://www.quadraphonicquad.com.

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