As members of the pioneering downtown New York City band Blondie, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were part of the ‘70s punk movement that owed a substantial debt to Lou Reed and his cohorts in the Velvet Underground, as well as Lou's groundbreaking, early solo work. Harry and Stein were around in the Velvets' heyday, and were lucky enough to have seen them perform. Here they share their personal memories of Lou Reed and his legacy.
Lou Reed: 1942 - 2013
DEBBIE HARRY: The first time I saw the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed it was in the 1960s at a place on the Lower East Side called The Balloon Farm. That day I became a lifelong devotee of the iconoclastic sound and style of Lou and the Velvets. I'm so sad that he's gone but his hypnotic voice telling a story of a Perfect Day, or the devil let loose in White Light/White Heat will live forever.
CHRIS STEIN: I had many encounters with Lou over the years and he was always charming and polite. I just never ran into his infamous dark side, so I can’t attest to its actuality. Lou was one of a handful of originals. I don’t think that the conditions that created him will again even be approximated let alone duplicated.
When I was 17 years old in 1967, my friends and I were fascinated by the Velvets’ first amazing album. A close friend of mine worked for Warhol. One night he arrived at my house in Brooklyn and told my friends and I that the band who was supposed to open for the Velvets in NYC had cancelled and would we like to replace them. We got on the subway with our guitars and went to a venue on the upper west side called the Gymnasium. Maureen Tucker let us use her drums; turn them right side up even and we used the Velvets amps. We played our little blues rock set and at the end someone came over and said “Oh Andy thought you were terrific.” There were maybe 30 people there. The Velvets came on and were just powerful. They used the echo-y acoustics of the place to their advantage. This was a moment that shaped my musical life and I tell the story frequently. What else? I was really fond of Metal Machine Music and went through a period of constantly playing it. Lou’s music is a perfect mix of light and dark, and will stay with us.