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Lou Reed

Peter Gabriel and Arcade Fire

In 2010 Peter Gabriel recorded an album entitled Scratch My Back.

It consisted of gorgeous cover versions of songs by artists that he admires, including Lou Reed, Bon Iver, Regina Spektor, Radiohead, David Bowie, Talking Heads and Arcade Fire.

Many of these same artists have returned the favor by recording his songs on the album And I’ll Scratch Yours.

Listen here to Peter Gabriel’s version of Arcades Fires’ “My Body is a Cage” and then Arcades Fire performing Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers”.

“My Body is a Cage”

“Games Without Frontiers”

Lou Reed & Metallica

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In April 2011, at the Theatre am Schiffbauerdamm in Berlin the acclaimed German theatre group the Berliner Ensemble premiered a new production of Frank Wedekinds “Lulu Plays”. This new production is the work of massively acclaimed American avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson.

Wilsons immensely powerful and stylistic production features a suite of new songs written specifically for this production by Lou Reed.

Lou Reed has now recorded these songs with Metallica.

After performing together at the 2009 25th Anniversary of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame event, Reed and Metallica had planned to enter the studio together. Originally this was to re-record a selection of older – overlooked – Reed songs, a plan which changed in the studio when Reed suggested that they work together on a recording of the songs that he had written for “Lulu”.


Lou Reed – A Composer & Musician
Metallica – A rock band
Frank Wedekind – A Playwright
Robert Wilson – A Theatre Director

Some Background
“The Lulu Plays”, written by Wedekind at the close of the 19th century tell the story of the rise, fall and ultimately tragic death of Lulu a young woman described as “true animal, the wild, beautiful animal……a primal form of woman”. The narrative unfolds as we follow our heroine through her multiple relationships with men, her marriages, her lesbian encounters, her murderous acts, imprisonment, prostitution and eventual death at the hands of “Jack” one of her clients (a character thought to be based on Jack The Ripper.)
“The Lulu Plays” exist as two separate works “Earth Spirit” and “Pandoras Box”, but are regularly performed as one piece (as originally conceived by Wedekind.)
NB: These two plays formed the basis for the Louise Brooks (1929) film “Pandoras Box” and also the Alban Berg 1937 opera “Lulu”.

The Plot
Pt 1 “Earth Spirit”
Prelude: The action starts after Lulu has been rescued by the rich newspaper publisher Dr Schon from a life on the streets with her father the petty criminal Schigolch
Dr Schön has taken Lulu under his wing, educated her and made her his lover. However he wants to make a more socially advantageous match for himself, and he marries Lulu off to the medic Dr Goll.

Act One
Dr Goll has brought Lulu to have her portrait painted by Schwarz. Left alone with him, Lulu seduces the painter. When Dr Goll returns to confront them, he collapses with a fatal heart attack.

Act Two
Lulu has married the painter Schwarz, who, with Schön’s assistance, has now achieved fame and wealth. (She remains Schön’s mistress!) Wishing to be rid of her ahead of his forthcoming marriage to a society belle, Charlotte von Zarnikow, Schön informs Schwarz about her dissolute past. Schwarz is shocked to the core and “guillotines” himself with his razor.

Act Three
Lulu appears as a dancer in a revue, a new career promoted by Schön’s son Alwa, who is now also infatuated with her. As the act ends Dr Schön is forced to admit that he is in Lulu’s thrall and she forces him to break off his engagement to Charlotte.
Act Four, Lulu is now married to Dr Schön but is unfaithful to him with several other men (Schigolch, Alwa, the circus artist Rodrigo Quast and the lesbian Countess Geschwitz). On discovering this, Schön presses a revolver into her hand, urging her to kill herself. Instead, she uses it to shoot Schön, all the while declaring him the only man she has ever loved. She is imprisoned for her crime.

Pt 2 “Pandora’s Box”
Act One
At the end of Earth Spirit, Lulu was imprisoned for the murder of her third husband, Dr Schön. Pandora’s Box opens with her confederates awaiting her arrival after she has been sprung from prison in an elaborate plot. The lesbian Countess Geschwitz, who remains in love with Lulu, has swapped identities with her and selflessly takes Lulu’s place in prison. Rodrigo Quast, the acrobat, plans to take Lulu away with him as a circus performer but when she arrives, emaciated from the prison regime, he declares her unfit for his purposes. Alwa Schön, the writer, succumbs to her charms, despite her having murdered his father. They leave together.

Act Two
Lulu and Alwa, now married, are entertaining in their lavish Parisian home. All are profiting from investments in the Jungfrau cable-car company. Two characters attempt to blackmail her, since she is still wanted by the German police: Rodrigo the acrobat and Casti-Piani, a white slave-trader who offers to set her up in a brothel in Cairo. The sinister Schigolch, who was Lulu’s first patron (and may be her father) reappears, and offers to lure Rodrigo and Geschchwitz to his lodgings, promising to “take care of” the threatening Rodrigo. As the police arrive to arrest her, Lulu swaps clothes with a groom and escapes. The Jungfrau share price has meanwhile collapsed, leaving her penniless.

Act Three
Lulu is now living in a London garret with Alwa and Schigolch and working as a prostitute. Geschwitz arrives with the rolled-up portrait of Lulu as an innocent Pierrot which has accompanied Lulu throughout the action of this play and its predecessor. Lulu’s first client is the pious mute Mr Hopkins. Alwa is killed by her next visitor, the African prince Kungu Poti. Another client, the bashful Dr Hilti, flees in horror and Geschwitz tries unsuccessfully to hang herself. ‘Jack’ (Jack the Ripper??), her final client, argues with her about her fee. Geschwitz vows to return to Germany to matriculate and fight for women’s rights. Jack murders Lulu and Geschwitz; the latter dies declaring eternal love for Lulu.

Wilson, (born 1941) is an American stage-director and playwright, who has been described as “America’s – or even the worlds – foremost vanguard ‘theatre artist’”. He has also worked as a choreographer, performer, sculptor, painter and sound and lighting designer. He is best known for his collaboration with Philip Glass on “Einstein On The Beach”. He has also worked with Lou Reed, William S Burroughs, Tom Waits and David Byrne.

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind, ( 1864 – 1918) A playwright, who was born in Germany and lived in Munich for most of his life. His work, was often highly controversial as it was critical of the bourgeois attitudes of the time, particularly towards sex and is seen as anticipating expressionism! Wedekind is best known for his first major work “Spring Awakening” (which in 2006 was adapted for a highly succesful Broadway run) and “The Lulu Plays”.

From the Archives: Peace Together

Of late I’ve been combing through my 20,000+ CDs, filing and re-filing and weeding and searching and re-discovering what lies hidden in this treasure trove. I happened upon a disc entitled Peace Together, a benefit album for the youth of Northern Ireland that was released in 1993. Chances are you may never have heard of this disc. I didn’t remember it. But it features bands from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Listen here to U2 with Lou Reed, Blur covering Elvis Costello and a beautiful version of the obscure song “Be Still”, by Peace Together, an illustrious combination of British and Irish musicians including Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, Feargal Sharkey, Jah Wobble, mixed by Robin Guthrie and featuring Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. Peace!

U2 featuring Lou Reed-“Satellite of Love”
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Blur-“Oliver’s Army”
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Peace Together-“Be Still” (Robin Guthrie remix featuring Elizabeth Fraser)
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