September 30, 2023
The Secret History of Rock

Worst. Album. Ever.

[I allude to this album in the previous post.  This fills out some detail. – AC]
Think about the worst album you’ve EVER heard.  I’m talking about a record so bad that you can’t imagine anyone sitting through the whole thing even once.

I nominate Metal Machine Music, a double album released by Lou Reed back in 1975.  He wanted out of his contract with his record label, so he deliberately recorded an album that consisted of nothing more than four sides of squalling, grinding, grating guitar feedback.  

Four sides of noise.  Even Lou himself has said “anyone who gets to side four is dumber than I am.”  It’s amazingly appalling.  
However, that did not stop a German experimental ensemble called Zeitkratzer from performing the entire album in Venice in 2002.  And people paid to hear it! Weirdly, they’ve kept doing it, too.  Last October, they performed all four parts at a show in Italy and were accompanied by a wild light show.  What’s wrong with them?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

Alan Cross has 37125 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Worst. Album. Ever.

  • Ouch. It makes you wonder how much listening and practice/rehearsals it took to get it right for performance live. Or was it performed accurately live? Who would know?

  • What's really amazing is that the label hates Reed right back. Not only did they release this, but they keep it in the back catalogue, going so far as to digitizing it for CD.

    I don't know who's getting the last laugh here.

  • Brent Bambury interviewed Ulrich Maiss (CelloMachine) a couple years ago on the CBC Radio show GO, where Ulrich called Metal Machine Music a muther***, on air. They then called Lou Reed and asked him about Metal Machine Music and Ulrichs' interpretation.
    Can't find the interview online, but a clip from the Bambury/Lou Red phone call interview is available on soundcloud.

    Unfortunately the interview clip ends part way through Lou's explanation of his intent with Metal Machine Music (he did defend it as a legitimate work) and doesn't included any of the Ulrich interview. I remember at the end of the call, Banbury offered to send Lou a carton of cigarettes of his choice as thanks for doing the interview.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.