Photo by Kate Simon.
One chilly day in January 1979, Lou Reed and John Cale visited the music station WPIX in New York City, Reed to serve as “guest disk jockey” for a stretch or so and Cale to play some songs from his live repertoire. Reed had released his live album Take No Prisoners a couple of months earlier. Cale hadn’t released a studio album since 1975, with only the compilation Guts in between, and his live album Sabotage/Live wouldn’t come out until the end of the year.
Reed arrives at the studio first and has the air to himself for a little while before Cale shows up to play his songs. It isn’t accurate to say that Reed is in a bad mood—he’s perfectly jovial and praises WPIX fulsomely—but he is simply taking no shit, very opinionated about all manner of subject, and boy, does he not like music critics, particularly Robert Christgau and John Rockwell, two prominent New York critics.
Reed fans will recall that on the very, very rambling version of “Walk on the Wild Side” found on Take No Prisoners, recorded eight months earlier, Reed complains about—guess who—Rockwell and Christgau: “Imagine working for a fuckin’ year and you got a B+ from an asshole in the Village Voice?” grouses Reed on that album. On WPIX that day, Reed is still pissed off about the music press. “It’s very sick, perverse world in the land of journalism,” he says, and later gripes about receiving a C- from Christgau (who never actually gave any Reed album a score that low but whatevs).
Later on Reed says, “A bad review from Rolling Stone is proof to me that I’m still alive.”
During the show Reed actually takes calls from listeners—and seems to enjoy it quite a bit. There’s a great moment early on when a caller accidentally says the word “shit” and Lou has to set him straight.
Towards the end John Cale arrives and plays three songs. First up is “Jack The Ripper at the Moulin Rouge,” which was supposed to be released as a single in 1978 but never was; you can find it on Seducing Down the Door. Then Cale plays “Evidence,” best known from Sabotage/Live, and “Leaving It Up To You,” off of Helen of Troy.