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.
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $20, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.