Interesting Opinion: Was Lou Reed Alt-Rock’s First Sellout?

It’s a generally accepted fact that the Velvet Underground was the first-ever alternative band. Now the Daily Beast brings up the idea that Lou Reed was the first alt-rock artist to sell out.

Lou Reed is well known for annihilating all limitations on the subject matter rock & roll could address. Such songs of his as “Heroin,” “Street Hassle,” “Rock Minuet” and “Coney Island Baby” explored addiction, transgressive sexuality, and violence, and, on the strength of such coruscating work, he has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both as a founding member of the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist. As a songwriter and guitarist, he was a connoisseur of abrasion, outrage, and subversion. Shortly before his death in October 2013 at the age of 71, he declared, “I believe in the power of punk. To this day, I want to blow it up.”

Fewer people know that Reed also helped break the stigma against using rock songs in advertisements, forever changing the rules about what it means to “sell out.” The 1985 Honda television commercial that featured Reed’s biggest and most indelible hit, “Walk on the Wild Side,” was a watershed moment in that regard. Fearful of being accused of “selling out,” rockers had often avoided allowing their songs to be licensed for ads and associated with consumer products. But once Reed, an artist of impeccable credibility, did it, that prohibition shattered, never to be restored.

Read on. Here’s the spot in question.


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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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