The Bells (album)

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This article is about the album by Lou Reed. For the album by Nils Frahm, see The Bells (Nils Frahm album). For the album by Albert Ayler, see Bells (album).
The Bells
Studio album by Lou Reed
Released April 1979
Recorded 1979
Delta Studios, Wilster, West Germany
Genre Rock
Length 40:37
Label Arista
Producer Lou Reed
Lou Reed chronology
Live: Take No Prisoners
The Bells
Growing Up in Public
Singles from
The Bells
  1. "Disco Mystic"
    Released: 1979
  2. "City Lights"
    Released: August, 1979

The Bells is the ninth album by Lou Reed, released through Arista Records in 1979. It is recorded in binaural sound.

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Disco Mystic" is indeed played in a disco style, and the lyrics consist of those two words repeated. "I Want to Boogie With You" has a doo-wop flavor (even if underneath the horns are the synthesizers which permeate this album), a IV-to-I plagal cadence repeated throughout. "City Lights" is a tribute to Charlie Chaplin, taking its name from the film of the same name. "Families" is an explicitly personal entreaty to his own parents and sister, with the closing line "Families that live out in the suburbs often make each other cry". The title track is said to be a favorite of Reed's,[citation needed] and he claims the lyrics were made up extemporaneously. Three tracks were co-composed with Nils Lofgren, with whom he also collaborated on Lofgren's 1979 album Nils.

Victor Bockris reported in his biography of Reed (alternately titled Transformer or Lou Reed) that the master tapes to The Bells were lost. Since the book's release, however, remastered CD editions have been released in the United States, showing increased sound quality—or at least, increased loudness—compared to previous releases in other countries.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[2]
Robert Christgau B+[3]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, music critic Lester Bangs wrote, "With The Bells, more than in Street Hassle, perhaps even more than in his work with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed achieves his oft-stated ambition—to become a great writer, in the literary sense."[4] In a less enthusiastic retrospective review, Select magazine wrote that "The Bells saw his music disappearing down the pan ... Even self-parody is barely achieved in these half-assed songs played by a bunch of dullards, with Lou sounding painfully uninspired."[5]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Stupid Man"   Reed, Nils Lofgren 2:33
2. "Disco Mystic"   Reed, Ellard Boles, Marty Fogel, Michael Fonfara, Michael Suchorsky 4:30
3. "I Want to Boogie with You"   Reed, Michael Fonfara 3:55
4. "With You"   Reed, Nils Lofgren 2:21
5. "Looking for Love"   Reed 3:29
6. "City Lights"   Reed, Nils Lofgren 3:22
7. "All Through the Night"   Reed, Don Cherry 5:00
8. "Families"   Reed, Ellard Boles 6:09
9. "The Bells"   Reed, Marty Fogel 9:17


  • Lou Reed - vocals, electric guitar, synthesizer, bass
  • Ellard "Moose" Boles - 12-string electric guitar, synthesizer, bass, background vocals
  • Don Cherry - African hunting guitar, trumpet
  • Marty Fogel - ocarina, soprano & tenor saxophones, Fender Rhodes, guitar on "The Bells"
  • Michael Fonfara - electric & Fender Rhodes pianos, keyboards, Oberheim synthesizer, background vocals, Executive Producer
  • Michael Suchorsky - percussion
  • René Tinner - engineer
  • Manfred Schunke - mixing
  • Ted Jensen - mastering
  • Garry Gross - photography
  • Donn Davenport, Howard Fritzson - design and art direction


  1. ^ Deming, Mark. The Bells (album) at AllMusic
  2. ^ Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 31, 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  4. ^ Bangs, Lester (June 14, 1979). "The Bells". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ Select, November 1992