Run-DMC released their self-titled debut album in March 1984. A landmark in hip-hop history, it had several hit singles and rose to the No. 53 position on Billboard magazine’s albums chart. Its “Rock Box” video became the first pure hip-hop video (as opposed to a pop/hip-hop hybrid such as Blondie’s “Rapture) to be played on MTV, in the summer of ’84.
Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that by Sept. 25, 1984, when Run-DMC opened for Lou Reed at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, most Reed fans were not particularly interested in hip-hop — and certainly not used to a band being just two MCs and a DJ. To give you some perspective, this is nearly two years before Run-DMC re-recorded “Walk This Way” with members of Aerosmith.
The awkwardness of the moment is captured well by the video below, of Run-DMC’s 18-minute set. You can hear booing at several points, though, to be fair, some of it may be people calling out “Lou!” (which would still be rude).
Still, Run-DMC presents a professional, energetic performance, and some in the crowd respond enthusiastically. It’s a fascinating snapshot of a important moment in 20th century pop-music history, with rock still dominant but hip-hop ascending.
Reed’s wife at that time, Sylvia Reed, said in a 2018 interview, “when I heard that first Run-DMC album, I was knocked out, and insisted that we ask them to open a show. I think that was 1985, maybe a little earlier. It was kind of hilarious. It was in the Capital Theater, and they were so brave, because they were used to something else entirely, as far as a venue to perform. And it was the first time they performed in front of a very white audience, and they were trying to do their call and response, and there was nothing coming back. Man, they had to have guts! And then within about a year and a half, they were huge, and everybody wanted them to open. It was really exciting.”
Darryl “Run” McDaniels of Run-DMC told interviewer Robert Ferraro last year, “you know who loved us from the start? The Ramones. Springsteen. Lou Reed. All the rock dudes. They didn’t see us as a fad. They knew what we were about. … Lou Reed said, ‘I respect Run-DMC because when they came out, they reminded me of me when I was a young musician in my garage beating on pots and pans to everyone’s music.’ … the rock dudes loved us and our socially conscious attitude. We was rebellious, just like rock ‘n’ roll. We had the anti-everything attitude that they had.”
Here is the Run-DMC video, followed by a video of Reed’s complete performance, which featured guests appearances by The Chantels and Jim Carroll, and was filmed for an MTV special.
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