Lou Reed sang, “I’m a New York City man, baby,” and that he was. Reed was born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, and spent most of the rest of his life in New York City. Locations all over New York City, from Coney Island to Harlem, pop up in the lyrics of songs from Reed’s band The Velvet Underground and his solo career. The legacies of Reed and his band are inextricable from the history of the New York City rock scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Inspired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts exhibit, Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, we’ve compiled 10 New York City haunts of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, from iconic rock venues and recording studios to old apartments and favorite eateries. Each location is paired with an image from the NYPL exhibit or an image of the current location if it still exists.
In Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, Reed’s musical career is explored through photographs, videos, rare music recordings, memorabilia, album collections, and much more. In addition to artifacts related to the music Reed made, there are also photographs, poems, and other writings Reed created, as well as items related to his personal tai chi studies. After the tour, you can head into the Lou Reed Listening Room to hear Reed’s music exactly as he intended it to be played and to experience Metal Machine Trio: The Creation of the Universe, a sound installation developed by Reed himself to specifically be listened to in New York.
You can join Untapped New York Insiders for a tour of Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars on January 9th at 6pm. The tour will be led by Kevin Parks, the Library’s Music & Recorded Sound Curator. The tour is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not a member yet? Become a member today (and use the code JOINUS to get one month free).
Lou Reed NYPL Exhibit Tour
1. Pickwick Records
After graduating from Syracuse University in 1964 with a degree in English, Lou Reed got a job as a songwriter for Pickwick Records in Long Island City, formerly located at 8-16 43rd Ave. The record company was modeled after the Brill Building in Manhattan, where a team of songwriters churned out pop hits. It was at Pickwick that Reed first collaborated with future Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale. One song Reed created while at Pickwick was “The Ostrich,” a joke song inspired by “The Twist.”
Reed only worked at Pickwick for a short time, but his time there was transformative. He honed his songwriting skills and became familiar with the inner workings of a recording studio. He also forged relationships that would greatly impact his musical career, such as his relationship with founding Velvet Underground member John Cale. The building Pickwick once occupied was demolished and replaced with a new red brick building.