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RIP Lou Reed: five things we learnt from interviewing the musical icon

Posted at 4:30 pm, October 28, 2013 in Music & Nightlife
lou reed © Michal Durinik / Shutterstock.com

We wouldn’t dream of speaking ill of the recently dead. Particularly when they’re such monstrously influential cultural figures as Lou Reed. Being brilliantly uncompromising was practically his job; as a result, it’s pretty much impossible to overstate his significance. Even now, a brief scan of Time Out’s music listings serves as a reminder that he basically invented a decent percentage of the music we hold most dear today. This uncompromising nature did, of course, have other consequences. For a start, it made interviewing him an interesting experience. Phil Harrison spoke to him in 2006. This is what he learnt…

1. Lou Reed had a disappointingly limp handshake. It was hard to believe that the floppy hand you were shaking was also the hand that helped sustain the 20 minutes of sonic carnage that is ‘Sister Ray’.

2. Lou Reed was tiny. But he was surprisingly ripped for a man who was then in his mid-60s. He basically looked like he’d been carved out of rock – simultaneously ancient and weirdly ageless. Having met him, I’d half expected him to live forever.

3. Lou Reed lived stubbornly in the present. He didn’t want to talk about the Velvet Underground or ‘Perfect Day’ or drugs or weird sex or Andy Warhol. He wanted to talk about what he was doing then and there. Which, when I met him, was a stage production of his sublimely gloomy ‘Berlin‘ album. Given that the production hadn’t opened in London at this point and therefore, I hadn’t seen it, this was a problem. But this obsession with the next thing was surely one of Lou’s greatest virtues.

4. Lou Reed liked to keep you on your toes. At one point during our interview, he inexplicably reached across the table, turned off my recording device and then sat back, smirking, as if to say; ‘what’re you gonna do about that then?’ I wasn’t quite sure so I elected to simply turn the voice recorder back on and carry on as if nothing had happened.

5. Lou Reed wasn’t an easy man. He didn’t care if you liked him or not. And thank god for that. If he’d cared what other people had thought of him, he wouldn’t have written songs like these…


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