Happy Birthday Lou Reed: Remembering ‘The Ostrich’

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Today marks what would be the 74th birthday of late rock ‘n’ roll legend Lou Reed. The Velvet Underground’s founder and frontman left an indelible impact on music, art and culture over the course of his wide-ranging career. In honor of the consummate New Yorker, here’s a look back at one of Reed’s earliest recordings featuring him playing guitar with a highly unusual tuning.

Released in 1964 on the Pickwick Records label where Reed was employed, The Primitives (featuring a young Lou playing guitar) issued the single “The Ostrich.” The 7-inch release was Reed’s first collaboration with future fellow VU member John Cale who was among the musicians brought in for the recording session. It also saw Reed employ a trivial tuning technique he dubbed “The Ostrich” in which all six guitar strings were tuned to D, allowing him to produce a sustained drone sound.

Soon after, Reed and Cale went on to form one of the most influential acts in rock history, achieving acclaim – if not commercial success – with The Velvet Underground. Perhaps best described by Cale after Reed’s passing, stating in part:

Two kids have a chance meeting and 47 years later we fight and love the same way … We have the best of our fury laid out on vinyl, for the world to catch a glimpse. The laughs we shared just a few weeks ago, will forever remind me of all that was good between us.

Here’s The Primitives’ recording of “The Ostrich” from the original 45-inch release:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxJ8g8DABj4