Lou Reed

Metal Machine Music (Buddha Original Masters Series)

We who labor under the auspices of the music desk at this here urban newsweekly have only your best interests at heart, and may God or Lilith or Zoaraster whap us with a bolt of lightning in the spleen if this isn't the strict, unvarnished truth. We humbly consider ourselves not the last word on musical quality, but rather the first line of defense on your behalf. Regarding (what we consider to be) good music, we want only that you should be informed of its merits, that you may make your own determinations from an informed standpoint. Of (what strikes us as) silly or inconsequential or just plain bad music, we want you to be warned in advance, in order that you may spend your entertainment dollars on those artifacts that might bring you more lasting pleasures.

But it ain't all brickbats and hosannas, kids. Some of what we do in these pages falls under the heading of "consumer advocacy" rather than "essays of opinion." And so, when we learned that Buddha Records was going to release Lou Reed's 1975 Metal Machine Music on CD, for the very first time in the States, in a 25th-anniversary, deluxe-packaged, limited-and-numbered edition as part of its Original Masters Series, we knew you'd want us to go and ferret out the details underlying this phenomenon so as you might venture into your local muzik shoppe in an educated state of mind, vis-à-vis its relevance to your personal record collection.

See, here's the --

Louie, Louie: You can stop holding your breath, kids. Metal Machine Music is here.
Louie, Louie: You can stop holding your breath, kids. Metal Machine Music is here.

(Wait. This article presupposes advance knowledge of The Thing itself, which is a dangerous tack to take in an increasingly solipsistic and amnesiac society. Meaning no disrespect, but if some of the young'uns among you have come this far without knowing anything about Metal Machine Music beyond a vague awareness that it exists, dear Lester Bangs summed it up nicely for us in a contemporary article in Creem magazine: ". . . what we have here is a one-hour, two-record set of nothing, absolutely nothing but screaming feedback noise recorded at various frequencies, played back against various other noise layers, split down the middle into two totally separate channels of utterly inhuman shrieks and hisses . . ." Okay? Nothin' but. For an hour plus, in fact, but we'll get to that below. Back to our originally scheduled public service.)

See, here's the thing. Among music junkies, same as junkies of every other stripe, there are those of us who will never be satisfied until we experience a thing for ourselves, no matter how many sensible people say it's worthless, it's stupid, or it'll kill you in the end. Vinyl copies of MMM being understandably difficult to come by, the easiest way to procure a copy, assuming you wanted to hear it for yourself and none of your speed-freak friends owned it, was as an import CD released through Hamburg-based BMG Ariola. However, that disc wasn't especially easy to find, and it was even more difficult to find someone who already owned it and was willing to lend it out, MMM fans being a generally paranoid and mistrustful lot. Moreover, there were several problems with MMM's German import release, not the least of which was the omission of several key elements from the original packaging.

But no more, Dear Reader. In the event that you've been waiting for this moment, be advised that you now have a more complete, fully domestic alternative, should you wish to add this meisterwerk to your personal library. And in the spirit of nostalgia, consumer advocacy, competitive enterprise and the free market, we herewith offer a handy clip-'n'-save consumer report regarding why Buddha's Original Masters Series edition of MMM (hereafter, the BOMS-MMM) is a far, far superior version of this entry from Reed's canon to the German import, formerly your best option.

1. Deluxe packaging: A holograph slipcase with faux corner-protective metal widgets, limited-edition embossed numbering, and duplication of the original cover complete with molecular illustrations, medical disclaimers and RCA Master Reference tag make the BOMS-MMM a stately addition to your music shelf. This is historical refurbishing at its most painstaking.

2. Longer running time: The BOMS-MMM runs to 64 minutes and 11 seconds, which beats the German import by 1 minute, 50 seconds. What's that? Well, sure, it's only a minute and 50 seconds of blip, screech and squall; but dig, can you appreciate that this added time comprises a . . .

3. Replication of side four's locked groove: MMM's original vinyl pressing featured a locked inner groove on side four, so that anyone who made it to the end (!) would have to get up, walk across the room and physically remove the needle from the record if he wanted it to stop. Otherwise, the moronic thing would just keep playing and playing and playing until the neighbors shot your stereo through the open bedroom window, or the cops broke down your door and found your cold, dead body. With a CD, of course, that effect is impossible to reproduce (and on eight-track, the album simply loops, which is its own torture); but the BOMS-MMM delivers more than two minutes of that locked-groove section at the end of track four, for the first time anywhere since the original vinyl release. Bravo!

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