This article tells the story of a cassette tape housed in the Andy Warhol Museum Archives, a set of never-released (and rarely heard) songs by Lou Reed, and the tape’s intended audience: Andy Warhol. Warhol and Reed are giant figures in the history of twentieth-century Pop Art and popular music, and their collaboration from 1966 to 1967 resulted in the acclaimed album The Velvet Underground and Nico. Based on extensive archival research and interviews, I discuss how this tape reflects Warhol’s and Reed’s failed attempt to collaborate on a stage version of Reed’s album Berlin (1973); Reed’s reaction to Warhol’s book, THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1975); and how elements of Warhol’s own audio aesthetics and taping practices find their way into Reed’s recordings around 1975. I also place this cassette in the context of the emerging common practice of creating and gifting homemade mixtapes of curated music, and demonstrate how such mixtapes function as a type of “closet media” (to quote theater scholar Nick Salvato) marked by private audience, disappearance, and inaccessibility. Drawing on William S. Burroughs’s conceptual spliced-tape experiments and their challenge to unified subjectivity, I explore the epistemological and ontological ramifications of sonically entangling the self with another person, and the queer intimacies of doing so on cassette tape.
I’ll Be Your Mixtape: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and the Queer Intimacies of Cassettes
Judith A. Peraino is professor of music at Cornell University. Her publications include articles on medieval music, Blondie, David Bowie, PJ Harvey, Mick Jagger, Pussy Riot, and early synthpop. She is the author of two books: Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig (2006), and Giving Voice to Love: Song and Self-Expression from the Troubadours to Guillaume de Machaut (2011); and the co-curator for the exhibit “Anarchy in the Archives” featuring materials from Cornell’s Punk Collection.
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Judith A. Peraino; I’ll Be Your Mixtape: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and the Queer Intimacies of Cassettes. Journal of Musicology 1 October 2019; 36 (4): 401–436. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2019.36.4.401
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