Robert Quine

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Robert Quine
Birth nameRobert Wolfe Quine
Born(1942-12-30)December 30, 1942
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
DiedMay 31, 2004(2004-05-31) (aged 61)
New York City, U.S.
Instrument(s)Electric guitar
Years active1975–2004
LabelsSire, RCA, Infidelity, Lust/Unlust, Zoo Entertainment, Red Star, Tzadik

Robert Wolfe Quine (December 30, 1942 – May 31, 2004) was an American guitarist. A native of Akron, Ohio, Quine worked with a wide range of musicians, though he himself remained relatively unknown. Critic Mark Deming wrote that "Quine's eclectic style embraced influences from jazz, rock, and blues players of all stripes, and his thoughtful technique and uncompromising approach led to rewarding collaborations with a number of visionary musicians."[1]

His collaborators included Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Lou Reed (notably on The Blue Mask), Brian Eno,[2] John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Marc Ribot, Marianne Faithfull (Strange Weather), Lloyd Cole, Matthew Sweet and Tom Waits.

Lester Bangs wrote that he was a "pivotal figure" and "the first guitarist to take the breakthroughs of early Lou Reed and James Williamson and work through them to a new, individual vocabulary, driven into odd places by obsessive attention to On the Corner-era Miles Davis."[3] Quine was ranked 80th by Rolling Stone magazine's David Fricke in his list of "100 Greatest Guitarists".[4]

Early life[edit]

Quine was born in Akron, Ohio, the son of Rosalie (née Cohen) and Robert Cloyd Quine.[5] He was a nephew of philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine.[6] After graduating from Earlham College in 1965, Quine earned a law degree "out of inertia" from Washington University in St. Louis in 1968.[7][2] Although he never practiced law and failed the California bar exam on several occasions, Quine wrote tax law textbooks for Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based publisher Prentice Hall for three years after moving to New York City in 1971 by virtue of his admission to the Missouri bar in 1969.[2][8] Quine also enrolled at the Berklee School of Music at an indeterminate point without taking a degree.


In 1969, Quine made a series of cassette recordings of the Velvet Underground performing live in St. Louis and San Francisco, where he lived between late 1969 and 1971. These saw official release in 2001 by Polydor Records, titled Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes. Though lo-fi in sound quality, the album is an important document of the group. In the liner notes, Quine writes: "I got a lot of pleasure and inspiration from these performances. As a guitar player, they were an important element in shaping what musical direction I wanted to take." While in St. Louis, he performed in a band called Bruce's Farm that specialized in Byrds covers.[9]

Throughout his San Francisco years (coinciding with his attempts to pass the California bar exam), Quine "sort of began to come up with my own style," often performing under the influence of LSD; nevertheless, he disdained such psychedelic rock groups as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.[2] During this period, his influences included John Coltrane's Ascension (1966), Elvis Presley's singles for Sun Records, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, James Burton, Mickey Baker and Little Richard.[2] Upon moving to New York, he began to gravitate toward a new array of influences, including the 1972-1975 electric oeuvre of Miles Davis (especially the guitar sounds on 1972's On the Corner and 1975's Agharta),[10] The Stooges' Raw Power (1973) and Brian Eno.[2]

After leaving Prentice Hall to focus on his musical career in the mid-1970s, he worked at the Greenwich Village bookstore Cinemabilia with Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, the co-founders of the influential punk band Television. Later, Hell invited him to join his new band The Voidoids. Hell's two Voidoid albums feature Quine's distinctive guitar work; guitarist Marc Ribot once said about Quine that "in terms of punk rock guitar soloing, [Quine] could definitely be called the inventor,"[11] while critic Ira Robbins describes his work as "stunning and underrated".[12]

After The Voidoids broke up, Quine recorded with Lydia Lunch, Jody Harris and Material. From September 1979 to July 1980, Quine and Harris recorded various guitar improvisations with a drum machine. In 1981, some of those experiments were released as the Harris/Quine album, Escape. With Material bandmate Fred Maher, Quine recorded his only other solo album, Basic, released in 1984.

In the early 1980s, Lou Reed drafted Quine to join his group. He appeared on The Blue Mask (1982), widely regarded as one of Reed's best albums.[13][14][15] The Reed-Quine guitar work crafted interlocking duels that blur the lines between rhythm and leads. Reed's 1983 album Legendary Hearts featured most of the same group, but Quine eventually quit due to tensions with Reed, exacerbated when Reed mixed down or entirely removed most of Quine's guitar parts on Legendary Hearts. Quine claimed that when he got his advance copy of the album, he was so disgusted by this, he smashed the cassette into "smithereens" with a hammer. Reed persuaded Quine to rejoin for a world tour, which is documented on the video A Night with Lou Reed (1983) and the album Live in Italy (1984); Quine disliked touring, but agreed to the tour for financial reasons. He ended his partnership with Reed for good in 1984.

Although Quine frequently collaborated with Eno from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s (coinciding with the producer's residency in New York), "almost none of [their work] ever came out."[2] In a 1997 interview with Perfect Sound Forever, he claimed to have introduced Eno to "He Loved Him Madly," a thirty-two minute 1974 Miles Davis song that Eno has cited as a pivotal influence in his development of ambient music.[16]

Throughout the 1980s, Quine made appearances as a session player on records by Tom Waits, John Zorn, Marianne Faithfull and Scritti Politti. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Quine began collaborations with a few musicians who would introduce him to new audiences, and who would raise his profile a bit. Saxophonist/composer John Zorn hired Quine for several experimental projects. He appeared on They Might Be Giants' 1994 album John Henry, and he also worked with pop songwriters/singers Lloyd Cole and Matthew Sweet during this period. Sweet's biggest hit song, "Girlfriend," is anchored by Quine's frenetic, squealing guitar work.


After the death of his wife Alice in August 2003, Quine died by suicide due to a heroin overdose in his New York home on May 31, 2004.[17]



Richard Hell and the Voidoids[edit]

He is also featured in the 1980 film Blank Generation.

Richard Hell[edit]

  • Time (2002)

Lou Reed[edit]

Matthew Sweet[edit]

Lloyd Cole[edit]


  • Temporary Music (1981)
  • Red Tracks (1982)
  • Secret Life (1998)
  • Best of Material (1999)

John Zorn[edit]

Other artists[edit]


  1. ^ "Robert Quine - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Robert Quine interview- Perfect Sound Forever". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  3. ^ Bangs, Lester (ed. Greil Marcus) (1987, 2003). Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. Anchor Books (a division of Random House). New York. ISBN 0-679-72045-6
  4. ^ Fricke, David (December 3, 2010). "100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  5. ^ "Cloyd Robert Quine descendents by Douglas Boynton Quine". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  6. ^ Cartwright, Garth (July 2, 2004). "Obituaries - Robert Quine". The Guardian. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  7. ^ "memories". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  8. ^ Levy, Aidan (October 1, 2015). Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613731093. Retrieved December 4, 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "TheHoundBlog: Robert Quine- Early Recordings: Bruce's Farm (1969)". April 3, 2010. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Hermes, Will (2012). Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever. Macmillan. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-374-53354-0.
  11. ^ "Perfiles: Marc Ribot. Interview by Efren del Valle. 12-24-2002". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  12. ^ " :: Richard Hell & the Voidoids". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  13. ^ "The 1982 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. February 22, 1983. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  14. ^ Palmer, Robert (December 22, 1982). "The Pop Life". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 9, 1982). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Tingen, Paul (October 26, 2007). "The most hated album in jazz". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Hell, Richard (June 14, 2004). "Delicate Rage". New York Magazine. Retrieved May 7, 2009.

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