Revisiting Lou Reed’s 1974 tour down under that created the AC/DC we know today on his 80th birthday

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Revisiting Lou Reed’s 1974 tour down under that created the AC/DC we know today on his 80th birthday

lou reed
Words by Harry Hartney

Sally Can’t Dance wasn’t particularly memorable for Lou Reed, but its supporting tour was vital in shaping one of Australia’s greatest exports

On this day in 1942, Lewis Allan Reed, soon to be globally known by his stage name ‘Lou Reed’, was born in New York. One of the most influential artists in all avant-garde music, Reed bent genres with a sultry vocal delivery both as an individual artist, as well as in his time with the Velvet Underground. Passing away on October 27, 2013, Lou would have turned 80 today. 

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Reed was known for ground-breaking albums, poignant lyricism, and his dedication to the craft of music as an artform. He also toured extensively throughout his career, making his way to Australia on several occasions, the most famous of which may just be Reed’s 1974 Sally Can’t Dance Tour. 

Donning platinum blonde hair, Reed departed Sydney Airport only to be swarmed by journalists. He was quickly steered into a pressroom, where he was met by provocative questioning, to which he negated with his often-witnessed air of cool mystique. 

The rock legend was accompanied by a supporting cast filled with soon-to-be Australian legends: Stevie Wright of The Easybeats, and a relatively unknown band at the time called AC/DC. 

Reed would go on to play in Melbourne four times, Sydney thrice, Adelaide twice, and Brisbane once before rounding out the tour down under and heading to New Zealand. These concerts were all performed within the span of 12 days. 

The set-list at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney was full of Lou’s greatest hits at the time, featuring records from both the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. The concert opened with ‘Sweet Jane’, the second song off Velvet’s sophomore album Loaded, before launching into ‘Vicious’. Other notable tracks included ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’, ‘Heroin’, and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. 

The Sally Can’t Dance tour was also famously hard for Lou Reed, who was consuming copious amounts of amphetamines and alcohol, and had a relatively supine role in the creation of the homonymous album. This was despite his status as a renowned control freak in the studio, famously firing Andy Warhol out of desire to not become another one of the artist’s creations, and rather be in control of his own self. Reed looked back on this album with disdain, even at the time, perhaps contributing to the lack of attention he paid to songs off Sally Can’t Dance while on tour to promote that very album (he only played two tracks: ‘Ride Sally Ride’ and the titular record for the majority of his setlists). 

However, the tour was not all doom and gloom. Supporting act, the late Stevie Wright, was coming off his resurgence as an independent artist, with hits like ‘Evie’ driving him back into the Aussie charts. Stevie’s co-stars, AC/DC, then fronted by Dave Evans, found Bon Scott while touring with Reed. The band was introduced to Scott by the then-frontman of The Valentines, Vince Lovegrove, after the Adelaide Festival Hall concert. Fortunately for Bon, this was shortly after the band and Evans parted ways, and he would soon join them onstage at the Pooraka Hotel in September, after being egged on by Lovegrove to do so. He was with the band for the next six years until his untimely death at 33 on February 19, 1980.

Interestingly, AC/DC rhythm guitar legend, Malcolm Young, prior to AC/DC, joined a Newcastle band that shared its moniker with Reed’s previous project, The Velvet Underground. The Newcastle band did not change their name despite the prominence of its American name-mate and had moderate success in the early 1970s before Young left for AC/DC. 

While Lou Reed’s 1974 Sally Can’t Dance tour may have not gone the way Reed intended, it holds its place in Australian music history as the first step onto Australian soil for one of rock music’s biggest stars, as well as for its influence on major Australian acts that supported many of his shows here.

See his full setlist here.