6 Things We Learned At  'Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars' Exhibit
Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars exhibit at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts

Photo: Max Touhey


6 Things We Learned At 'Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars' Exhibit

Artifacts, music and instruments spanning Lou Reed's entire life — including his seminal Velvet Underground years — are culled from the New York Public Library's archive and on view to the public through March 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2022 - 03:07 pm

The multi-room, lovingly curated exhibit Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars is a fitting coda to Lewis Allan Reed's vast influence and position in the cultural, literary and music worlds. Titled after a lyric in "Romeo Had Juliette," the show is a comprehensive look at the artist whose 20-LP-strong solo career and work with the seminal Velvet Underground was cut short when Reed died in 2013 at the age of 71.

A must-see for any lover of New York rock 'n' roll history and a worthy journey for any of Reed's casual fans (though "casual" is not a word that describes many of his listeners), the exhibit offers a glimpse into a prolific and unafraid musical and intellectual life. That one of the ultimate downtown Manhattan icons — along with punk poet Jim Carroll and former VU manager and Svengali-impresario Andy Warhol — is being celebrated at the Upper West Side's tony Lincoln Center, a fitting location for the many worlds and genres and Reed straddled, transformed and transgressed.

The exhibit will run through March 4, 2023 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Shelby Cullom Davis Museum and Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery. Whether a Reed newbie or Velvet Underground acolyte, below are some highlights that allow visitors to walk on the wild side with Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars.

Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars mmm

Lou Reed holding a copy of Metal Machine Music at an in-store signing in Paris, September 19, 1996. | Photo: © Mila Reynaud. Lou Reed Papers, Music & Recorded Sound Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music Is Divisive… And Loud

Stepping from a sunny street into the dark tomb of the Lou Reed Listening Room in the Library's Vincent Astor gallery is a shock to the senses. His first and only sound installation, Metal Machine Trio: The Creation of the Universe is a live version of Reed's confounding, droning 1975 fifth album (a double LP no less!).

Composer/saxophonist John Zorn plays on this live version, recorded in 2009 in New York, and the installation is experienced here via 12 loudspeakers in an "ambisonic" arrangement for immersive 3-D sound. Uh, what? Non-nerds: what you need to know is that the room and music are dark, disorienting and difficult, but worth checking out. Briefly. Visitors in the center of the listening room will apparently have the same acoustic perspective Reed had onstage.

Like Lulu, Reed's Metallica collaboration, Metal Machine Music isn't for everyone. (In 2005, Britain's Q magazine included it in a list of "Ten Terrible Records by Great Artists.") And it's odd to fathom that the same mind that came up with "Perfect Day" and "Satellite of Love" created this cacophony. Reed did MMM  because he was compelled to, and as such it's a valuable glimpse into the artist's oeuvre.

Reed's music runs all day in the Listening Room, and for the fainter of heart, less discordant and differently droning would be the artist's "Hudson River Wind Meditation."

Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars photos in case

Photos, including images of Anderson and Reed, on display | Photo: Max Touhey

Laurie Anderson Approves Of This Message (And Exhibit)

As the "it" couple of the downtown scene, Laurie Anderson — though as iconic as her partner —  appeared to soften Reed's legendary hard edges. Of the Caught Between The Twisted Stars long germination and public debut, Anderson exclaims "I'm so happy!" in the show's program.

"First because Lou is a legendary New Yorker and his work belongs to this City. And second because the library is free and public," Anderson continues. "This is not a white gloves collection! Now anyone can come in and look and listen to his life's work."

Some of the exhibit's most colorful moments are the Coney Island Sideshow banners representing Anderson and Reed as the 2010 Parade King Neptune and Queen Mermaid of Brooklyn's legendarily lovely and oddball Mermaid Parade. (They were joined by their "Royal Mer-Dog, Lola Belle," who has her own adorable sideshow banner.)

Reed's Friend & Collaborator Hal Willner Had The Coolest Studio Ever

Lou Reed met producer Hal Willer — who died in 2020 from complications of the Coronavirus — in 1985, when the singer participated in Willner's Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill project. According to the exhibit, "Hal became Lou's most trusted set of ears" and produced several albums for Reed. However, it was the duo's New York Shuffle radio show where "the preposterous tangoed with the sublime" that represented the apex of their collaboration.

Willner's studio is not recreated: it's here. It's where Reed and his friend recorded 86 two-hour episodes of New York Shuffle in a colorful, chaotic gem of a studio. From a Charlie McCarthy puppet to a computer and mini-mixing board setup, a coffee mug holding sharpened pencils, tons of crates loaded with vinyl, the pop culture ephemera is enviable.

In an exhibit placard, Willner praises Reed: "With him, you came ready to work. He taught me to focus, really focus. You did your job. Bear With him. Listen hard, then harder." This shrine to Willner — and the collaboration between two of NYC's most beloved — lends a vibe that's at once palpable and poignant.

Lou Reed Petty Receipts

Petty Cash Receipts for Lou Reed's stage clothes from The Pleasure Chest, NYC, December 15, 1973. | Photo: Courtesy of Lou Reed Papers, Music & Recorded Sound Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Music-Adjacent: Tai Chi, Star Charts & Receipts

Way more than a rock 'n' roll animal, the '80s saw Reed escape the grip of drug addiction. When he cleaned up, it seems that Tai Chi was one of the practices that centered the artist, allowing him to reach new career highs with his 1989 album New York and onward. As expected, there's nothing much of Lou's intimate life or demons in this celebration of his work and life, but the placard accompanying Reed's Tai Chi swords makes clear his hard-won clarity: "Not to get too flowery here but I want more out of life than a gold record and fame," Reed says. "I want to mature like a warrior. I want the power and grace I never had a chance to learn.

Caught Between The Twisted Stars also has a few pieces of ephemera that add extra intimacy.  Receipts — including $82.93 from the Pleasure Chest sex store for stage wear in 1973 — will invoke a smile, while a star chart created by photographer/filmmaker/Warhol intimate Billy Name looks cool. And, if one is able to read such things, you'll learn what the planets say about Reed's mother, homosexuality, sudden advancement and treachery.

Other tidbits include a Christmas card from Velvets drummer Moe Tucker and drawings of Reed done by New York singer Dion DiMucci (of The Belmonts and "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer" fame).

lou reed doo wop records

Lou Reed’s box of Doo-Wop, Rhythm & Blues, and Rock & Roll 45s. | Photo: NYPL/Jonathan Blanc. Lou Reed Papers, Music & Recorded Sound Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Digging In Lou's Crates

For many music junkies, there's nothing more rewarding than flipping through vinyl albums. And when those records represent the taste and breadth of a legend, it's even more compelling. Obviously (and sadly) you can't handle Reed's collection, but it's still cool to see them behind plexi-glass and also displayed individually, stretching up to the room's high ceiling.

Sure, there's classic doo-wop 45s including "The Wind" by Nolan Strong and The Diablos, but there's also the slightly less expected. In his alphabetically organized collection you'll find Creedence Clearwater Revival's Chooglin', Cheap Trick's In Color, Neil Young's Trans, lots of Tina Turner and Victoria Williams' Happy Come Home.

The LP collection serves to humanize Reed and two pieces of vinyl come with notes from the givers: A letter signed "Love, Paul McCartney" accompanies a copy of the ex-Beatles' Flaming Pie LP, sent only to "extremely groovy people." Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page sent Reed a 7-inch of the Byrds, "Eight Miles High/Why," single, with a note: "Thought You might enjoy a little more Coltrane," a reference to the Byrds attempt to play jazz/honor John Coltrane via "Eight Miles High."

lou reed at the bottom line

Lou Reed and band performing at The Bottom Line in New York City as part of the Legendary Hearts US Tour, 1983. Robert Quine, guitar; Fernando Saunders, bass; and Fred Maher, drums. | Photo: © Jane L. Wechsler. Lou Reed Papers, Music & Recorded Sound Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 

But Wait, There's More… The Archives!

One of the exhibition's curators is Don Fleming, who has the dream/nightmare job of archivist for the Lou Reed Archive, which has been processed and is now available to users. The archive spans Reed's creative life — from his 1958 Freeport High School band, the Shades, to his final performances in 2013.

The materials from the Archive onsite at the Library include a Garland Jeffreys interview as part of the Lou Reed Oral History Collection. Jeffreys (known for "Wild in the Streets" and "Matador") sheds light on the friendship that started while both were attending Syracuse University, as well as writer/poet Delmore Schwartz's influence on Reed. Jeffreys also speaks of Reed's passion for doo-wop: "He loved all that doo-wop and street corner music. It's beautiful sound. I know that Lou didn't have that kind of voice, but he tried. He really wanted that. And for that, I loved the guy, what he was interested in."

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2017 Special Merit Awards: Sly Stone, Velvet Underground, Nina Simone

Shirley Caesar and Charley Pride are also among The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

The Recording Academy announced its 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients. The Lifetime Achievement Award honorees are Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Nina Simone, Sly Stone and The Velvet Underground. Thom Bell, Mo Ostin and Ralph S. Peer are Trustees Award honorees; Alan Dower Blumlein is the Technical GRAMMY Award recipient.

More information on the 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients

"This year's Special Merit Awards recipients comprise a prestigious group of diverse and influential creators who have crafted or contributed to some of the most distinctive recordings in music history," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "These exceptionally inspiring figures are being honored as legendary performers, creative architects, and technical visionaries. Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their respective crafts have created a timeless legacy."

The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors contributions in areas other than performance. The recipients are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are voted on by The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and/or companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording industry.

Additionally, The Recording Academy and Hal Leonard Books will release A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends, a hardcover book that collects two decades of artist-written tributes to The Academy's annual Special Merit Awards honorees. Among those who have written tributes included in the book are Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Whoopi Goldberg, Ice Cube, Miranda Lambert, Queen guitarist Brian May, Dolly Parton, Carly Simon, Patti Smith and Yo-Yo Ma. The tributes were originally commissioned for the annual GRAMMY Awards program book and never published widely until now. A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends will be available in early January.

Pre-Order A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends

The 59th GRAMMY Awards will take place Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, live from Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 pm ET/5–8:30 pm PT. Follow Recording Academy/GRAMMYs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation.


GRAMMY Insider: Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Halestorm, Bob Dylan, Kanye West, And Usher

All the GRAMMY winners news, including who will take the stage to perform on the Fourth of July

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(The GRAMMY Insider keeps you up to date about news on your favorite GRAMMY winners, including new album releases, tour updates, notable TV appearances, interviews, and more.)

Fourth Of July Music
The "37th Annual Macy's 4th Of July Fireworks" spectacular will air from New York at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET and feature a fireworks show directed by Usher, and performances by Nick Cannon, Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, Tim McGraw, and Taylor Swift. … Barry Manilow will take the stage during "A Capitol Fourth — America's Independence Day Celebration" from Washington, D.C., at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. on PBS. … For more Fourth of July music, check out our GRAMMY playlist.     

Lists And Polls
She's been previously voted as one of the hottest female singers of all time, but who does Cher fancy? During a recent appearance on "Watch What Happens Live," the vivacious songstress engaged in a game of "Truth or Cher" with host Andy Cohen, during which she revealed that actor Tom Cruise ranks high on her favorite lovers list. "Well, he was in the top five," said Cher. "It's not a long list, it's a good list." … The fans have spoken and Taylor Swift ruled the 2013 edition of Billboard's Mid-Year Music Awards poll in three categories: First-Half MVP, Favorite Billboard 200 No. 1 Album for Red and the voter's favorite live show of 2013. Other GRAMMY winners who dominated poll categories included Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Pink, Fun.'s Nate Ruess, and Britney Spears.

Museum Exhibits
The late Amy Winehouse is being commemorated with a new exhibit at the Jewish Museum in London. Created in collaboration with Winehouse's brother, Alex Winehouse, the exhibit features intimate items owned by the singer, including the actual list of songs on her "chill-out tape."

New Music
Nine Inch Nails are rivaling Kanye West for the most epilepsy-inducing music video with the release of the visual component to their new single "Came Back Haunted." Directed by filmmaker/musician David Lynch, the video features flashing images of human insects, strange faces and frontman Trent Reznor.

Album Reviews
Kanye West took a walk on the wild side with his new album Yeezus, and it has garnered praise from none other than Lou Reed. In a review for, Reed wrote that the album is a mix of "supreme beauty … greatness … [and] the same old s*," and that West "really, really, really is talented." "No one's near doing what he's doing, it's not even on the same planet," he added.

News is out that the electric guitar with which Bob Dylan shook up the folk world will be auctioned later this year and is expected to bring in $500,000. The Fender Stratocaster that Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 is being auctioned by owner Dawn Peterson, who showcased the guitar on an episode of PBS' "History Detectives," where she got the estimate. After the PBS episode aired, Dylan reportedly claimed ownership, but a deal was worked out for Peterson to auction the guitar, preventing the whole thing from being tangled up in red (tape).

Pianist Keith Jarrett is among four artists named to the 2014 National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Masters class. Jarrett's classic 1975 live album, The Köln Concert, was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2011.

Does winning a GRAMMY make you rich? Not necessarily, according to recent GRAMMY winner Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. "It's all been great, but there's a lot of people who are like, 'Wow, they're rich,'" she told Pulse Of Radio. "No, no, the GRAMMY didn't come with a million dollars. We just got a statue."


Dwight Yoakam, Andra Day to salute GRAMMY Legends in New York

Photos: Getty Images/


Dwight Yoakam, Andra Day to salute GRAMMY Legends in New York

"GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" taping to feature performances honoring Sly Stone, Nina Simone, Charley Pride, and other 2017 Recording Academy Special Merit Awards recipients

GRAMMYs/Jun 2, 2017 - 05:00 pm

GRAMMY winners Kirk Franklin, Randy Newman and Dwight Yoakam and GRAMMY nominee Andra Day will pay tribute to Sly Stone, Nina Simone and Charley Pride, among others, at "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends," an awards ceremony and live tribute concert honoring The Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards recipients.

The event will tape on July 11 at The Beacon Theatre in New York, the host city of the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

Purchase tickets for "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends"

Led by GRAMMY-winner Paul Shaffer as musical director, the tribute concert will feature rare performances by honorees and never-seen renditions by artists they've inspired. Additional performers will be announced.

"GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" will recognize 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Simone, Stone, and the Velvet Underground, as well as Trustees Award recipients Thom Bell, Mo Ostin and Ralph Peer. Also being recognized are Alan Dower Blumlein and Keith Hancock, the respective 2017 Technical GRAMMY Award and Music Educator Award recipients.

In addition to the tribute concert, special celebrity guests will present recipients their award statues and guests will enjoy never-before-seen video packages celebrating each of the honorees' contributions to our cultural heritage.

Now in its second year, "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" will be produced in partnership with PBS' "Great Performances" series, and will air on the network later this year.

More GRAMMY legends: Buy A GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends book

Lou Reed Biography Excerpt Details Birth Of The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed

Photo: Waring Abbott/ Getty Images


Lou Reed Biography Excerpt Details Birth Of The Velvet Underground

Go inside the formation of one of rock's most influential bands and 2017 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients

GRAMMYs/Oct 3, 2017 - 02:52 am

A new biography by music journalist Anthony DeCurtis titled Lou Reed: A Life provides an extensive look inside the life and legacy of the inimitable Velvet Underground frontman. Ahead of its release, Rolling Stone has posted an excerpt outlining Reed's graduation from Syracuse University, his move to NYC and the formation of Velvet Underground.

In the excerpt, the GRAMMY-winning icon had just graduated with honors from Syracuse University and was eager to explore the culture and vices of New York's artistic and seedy underbelly. During the daytime, Reed worked as a songwriter, penning countless pop songs for fake artists. In the evenings he sold fake drugs in the night clubs.

When a fictitious group he'd penned a hit for, the Primitives, were invited to perform on a local television show, Reed's employer, Pickwick Records, had to assemble a band quickly. One of Reed's co-writers rounded up the avant-garde classical musician John Cale to join Reed for the performance, marking the genesis of Velvet Underground.

The duo would add Reed's college pal, Sterling Morrison on guitar and minimalist drummer Maureen Tucker, on their way to recording a demo and making their live debut at a high school dance, of all places.

If this excerpt is any indication, DeCurtis' look into Reed's life promises to be candid, detailed and full of excitement. Lou Reed: A Life is due out Oct. 10.

Velvet Underground will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Recording Academy's 2017 Special Merit Awards, airing Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS.

Read More: Sly Stone To Velvet Underground: 11 Facts About GRAMMY Legends