“Families that live out in the suburbs often make each other cry,” he later wrote.
Mr. Reed moved to New York City after college and traveled in the pop and art worlds, working as a house songwriter at the low-budget Pickwick Records and putting in late hours in downtown clubs. Fellow studio musicians included a Welsh-born viola player, John Cale, with whom Mr. Reed soon performed in such makeshift groups as the Warlocks and the Primitives.
They were joined by a friend of Mr. Reed’s from college, guitarist-bassist Sterling Morrison; and by an acquaintance of Mr. Morrison’s, drummer Maureen Tucker, who tapped out simple, hypnotic rhythms while playing standing up. They renamed themselves the Velvet Underground after a Michael Leigh book about the sexual subculture.
By the mid-1960s, they were rehearsing at Warhol’s “Factory,” a meeting ground of art, music, orgies, drug parties and screen tests for films that ended up being projected onto the band while it performed, part of what Warhol called the “Floating Plastic Inevitable.”
Before the Velvets, references to drugs and sex were often brief and indirect, if only to ensure a chance at radio and television play. The Velvets said everything other bands were forbidden to say and some things other bands never imagined. Mr. Reed wrote some of rock’s most explicit lyrics about drugs (“Heroin,” “Waiting for My Man”), sadomasochism (“Venus in Furs”) and prostitution (“There She Goes Again”).
His love songs were less stories of boy-meets-girl, than ambiguous studies of the heart, like the philosophical games of “Some Kinda Love” or the weary ballad “Pale Blue Eyes,” an elegy for an old girlfriend and a confession to a post-breakup fling.