Recording: Single, Pickwick Records, December 1964
In 1964, when the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed was still in his early twenties, he moved to New York from his parent’s home on Long Island to work as an in-house songwriter for bargain-bin record label Pickwick Records. That same year, he wrote "The Ostrich," a parody of silly '60s dance crazes like the Mashed Potato. While not technically a proper Velvet Underground song, "The Ostrich" is the first recorded collaboration of Reed and John Cale, as part of a makeshift band called The Primitives. The two would go on to start the Velvets the next year.
Considering that it was a minor hit, "The Ostrich" is shockingly vicious. The song begins with the infamous Ostrich tuning, in which Reed tuned every string on his guitar to the same note, ringing in its hook with repeated pounding strikes as if scoring the tune of an alarm clock. Reed screams, background singers shriek, the surrounding band beats furiously in time, and a wind effect howls underneath it all. While it may be disguised as a simple rip of The Crystals' riff from "Then He Kissed Me," "The Ostrich" contained many of the base elements of the Velvets’ future genius: an affection for cacophonous drone sounds, plenty of repetitive, yet unique rhythms, and a generous portion of controlled chaos.