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Cranky Lou Reed interview from 1975 is full of hilariously nasty gems
09.30.2014
08:41 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed


 
Oh, my…. Hell hath no fury like Lou Reed in close proximity to a journalist who has gotten on his bad side. I’d imagine a good chunk of the DM audience has already seen the hilarious clip of Lou Reed being royally unhelpful to some Australian journalists in 1974…. my first exposure to that footage was before a Morrissey show I saw in Dublin in 2009, it was part of the pre-gig entertainment.

This desultory interview from 1975 isn’t as well known, but it deserves to be considered in the same league as that Australian clip. It’s odd footage because it’s almost uncut raw footage, we get to see a dude with a boom mic several times—a couple times at the start or end of a take, the camera might zoom off crazily to one side, etc.
 

 
The best bits come right around the middle, when Lou and his interviewer engage in a series of one-liners that are somehow vaguely reminiscent of an ill-tempered Abbott and Costello routine:
 

LR: Don’t believe what you read.
I: No, I don’t.
LR: Don’t believe what you see.
I: Is it true that you wrote Sally Can’t Dance in the studio?
LR: If I say so, I guess….
I: But did you?
LR: I wasn’t there!
I: You were there.
LR: No I wasn’t. Dougie [Yule] did it.
I: Are you happier as a brunet?
LR: Ahh…. are you happier as a schmuck?
I: I’m no schmuck.
LR: I’m no brunet.
I: You were blond last time.
LR: No I wasn’t.
I: You were.
LR: I was a bleach blond.
I: A bleached blond.
LR: Trashy blond.
I: You looked younger as a blond.
LR: Well, you look older.
I: I’m not a blond, though.
LR: I know, it’s worse.

 
At one point, in response to an admittedly inane query about Berlin, Lou says, “It was a long time ago. I’m obsessed with Metal Machine Music.” So the interview was perhaps in support of what is widely considered one of the more prominent eff-yous in recording history, a fact that informs Lou’s contrary attitude, perhaps? (Or else it was for Lou Reed Live, which also came out in 1975.)
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Watch Laurie Anderson’s dog Lolabelle improvise her own experimental music
07.30.2014
09:29 am

Topics:
Animals

Tags:
Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson
dogs


 
Laurie Anderson loved her dog Lolabelle. Upon Lola’s passing, Anderson created a lovely sculpture of her ashes in memoriam. She delivered introspective monologues about their relationship. She put on concerts for dogs with Lola sharing the stage (for the record, the music is actually kind of interesting—structureless, but very tonal, and not entirely composed of high pitched whistles inaudible to the human ear). Anderson even sent Lola to music therapy, the adorable results of which you can see below.

Billing itself as “Common Sense Counseling for Dogs and their Humans,” Dog Relations NYC is a sort of Montessori-style obedience school, and as far as I know, they’re the only pet service with a testimonial from Laurie Anderson and the late Lou Reed and on their homepage—apparently dog behavior counselor Elisabeth Weiss has quite the magic touch.

Elisabeth was one of the key people in helping maintain the spirit and integrity of Lola’s life. Everyday Lola looked forward to her time with Elisabeth. It was a great relationship that we all rejoiced in. Elisabeth is a kind dog genius. Her help cannot be overestimated and went far beyond what one can buy. Lolabelle loved her. We all loved her.

Lolabelle’s musical ventures were categorized by Dog Relations NYC as Occupational Therapy—she had actually been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, but honestly I’d imagine this is the sort of thing that might just calm any nervous little terrier. At any rate, she looks genuinely rapt by her own keyboard skills. On the first video, she is receiving no instruction from a human. The second is a collaboration of sorts for Rock n Roll Rescue, a benefit for Art For Animals.
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Making of an Underground Film: Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol and a ‘topless’ Velvet Underground


 
There is simply too much pork for the fork in this wild CBS Evening News report on the then-new phenomenon of “underground films” from New Year’s Eve of 1965/66.

Seen here are Piero Heliczer filming the Velvet Underground, along with testimony from Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, a gorgeous young Edie Sedgwick, Al Aronowitz (the rock journo who introduced The Beatles to Dylan—and pot), Willard Van Dyke of the Museum of Modern Art, Chuck Wein, even shirtless and bodypainted Lou Reed and John Cale. Angus MacLise, who was still in the group when this was shot makes an appearance as well.

I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the first and so far at least, only time an excerpt from a Stan Brakhage film was ever shown on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
 

 
Thank you Michael Simmons!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lou Man Group exists and seems pretty brilliant, and that’s about all we can tell you about them


 
In recent weeks, when former child star Macaulay Culkin’s headache-inducingly stupid vanity band—the now infamous pizza-themed Velvet Underground “tribute” called The Pizza Underground—was booed and bottled off of a UK festival stage and subsequently canceled its tour, most sane observers were heard to say (in my imagination, anyway) “WHEW! Guess that’s the last we’ll hear of high concept, non-sequitur Lou Reed related cover bands.” But such declamations would have been premature—for on the horizon, a challenger appears, and it’s a credible challenger.
 

 
All I have to share with you is this: a flier exists advertising an appearance by Lou Man Group (there’s no way this joke needs explaining, right, we all know about Blue Man Group?) this past Saturday at L.A.’s Cowboy Gallery, whose FB page says exactly squat about such an event. The “band” has a web site with a video and a few photos, which directs the reader to an equally sparse Facebook page, just established in March. About all that can be said for sure is that this Lou Man Group probably has nothing to do with Lou Piniella’s. Their YouTube channel so far boasts all of two videos, the weird and insidery “The Manager,” and a lengthier advertisement for the group that features actually really cool and worthy versions of “Vicious,” “Foggy Notion” and, unsurprisingly, “Walk On The Wild Side”.
 

 

 
So did any DM readers attend this show? Is this a real band, and not just a clever tease? I’m really keen to know what’s up, because I LOVE THIS.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Lou Reed shoots ‘Heroin’ onstage in Houston, 1974
05.19.2014
03:51 pm

Topics:
Drugs
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
heroin


Photo by Michael Zagaris, art print available at Wolfgang’s Vault
 
Last week I posted some Lou Reed concert footage from 1974’s Rock N Roll Animal tour and now here is some more.

First up, a nice long bash at “Heroin” complete with the infamous tied-off arm/syringe/shooting up bit. Cute. It’s easy to see why a Velvets freak like Lester Bangs would have been disgusted with his idol at this point. Talk about jumping the shark! What was the guy thinking? Nevertheless, naturally the heavily ‘luded out mid-70s audience squeals with delight as Uncle Lou pretends to jack up. Tacky then, tacky now, especially considering it was Hep C that basically killed the guy.

This was shot in Houston, Texas on November 13, 1974. It’s a bit wobbly, but it exists, you know? It exists.
 

 
“Sweet Jane,” “Vicious” and the beginning of “Heroin” on this clip (made from the original 1/2” B&W open reel mastertape, it says). Lou Reed obviously could not dance for shit:
 

 
Personally, I’m of the opinion that some of the best live Lou Reed recordings come from when “The Phantom of Rock” (as RCA was marketing him at the time) was being backed by a band called The Tots. This is the period around when Transformer first hit, “Walk On the Wild Side” was a massive smash and Reed had pretty much become a superstar in Europe. He had not yet fully gone over to the insectoid speedfreak dark side as seen above, but clearly he was working on it.

There are two fantastic bootlegs of this group worth looking for, “American Poet” recorded on Reed’s Long Island home turf in late 1972 and “The Phantom of Rock” taped live at Alice Tully Hall in January 1973.

This footage was shot for France’s POP2 television show. Reed sings “Walk On The Wild Side,” “Heroin” and “White Light/White Heat.” You’ll enjoy it more if you turn it up.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal’: High quality footage of Lou Reed live in concert, 1974
05.12.2014
09:41 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed


 
Although, this footage of Lou Reed performing live in Paris in 1974 on his celebrated Rock n Roll Animal tour has been around for years, it’s always been pretty much unwatchable tenth generation VHS garbage. In the early 90s I was thrilled to buy a bootleg copy of this for $16 from a street vender on Fifth Avenue only to get it home to find that it was a “one” on a scale of one to ten. Ten years ago I found a DVD boot at the Pasadena Flea Market, but that turned out to be bad quality, too. It’s been posted various times on YouTube in the past, but none of these versions were much of an improvement… until this one.

It wasn’t as if a freak like Lou Reed would have gotten on television all that often in the 1970s, and of course European audiences often accepted America’s wildest performers with open arms long before we ever did, so this could probably be counted as only Reed’s second major TV appearance (the first having been the Velvet Underground mini-reunion at the Bataclan nightclub with John Cale and Nico that aired on French TV’s POP2 series in 1972).
 

 
And then there is this. The infamously smartassed ‘74 Australian press conference has been on YouTube for years, and will be familiar to many readers, but take a gander at the live footage from Down Under that comes after that, at the 5:27 mark: An excellent “Walk On the Wild Side” (complete with Uncle Lou’s spazzy dancing) and “Rock and Roll.” And it’s great quality.
 

 
Thank you Chris Campion of Hollywood, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lou Reed, Nico and John Cale do Velvet Underground mini-reunion on French TV, 1972
04.24.2014
01:49 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
Nico
Velvet Underground
John Cale


 
In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the POP2 TV program at Le Bataclan, a well-known—and very intimate—Paris venue. It was Cale’s gig originally and he invited Reed and Nico to join him. Reed, who hated rehearsing, spent two days with Cale working out what they were going to do. According to Victor Bockris’ Lou Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.

Both the videotape and the audio from this show have been heavily bootlegged over the years. A legit CD release happened a few years ago, but it still sounds like a bootleg. A high quality video turned up on various torrent trackers and bootleg blogs after a rebroadcast on French TV. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming (if there were any) would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson might have (There is an audio only recording of the rehearsals attributed to Robinson’s tapes already making the rounds on bootleg torrent trackers.)

This is Reed coming off his first solo record (which had not even been released yet) and just a few months before he recorded “Walk on the Wild Side” with David Bowie and took on a totally different public—and we can presume, private—persona. This is “Long Island Lou” last seen just before Reed’s druggy bisexual alter-ego showed up and took his place. Cale does the lush “Ghost Story” from his then new Vintage Violence album and Nico looks stunning and happy here singing “Femme Fatale.” It’s before the damage of her drug addiction took its toll on her looks.

I will direct you here for the full version, but I can’t embed the file.

One thing worth pointing out here is that during “Berlin” you can see Nico’s face as Reed sings a song which he told her was about her. She might even be hearing it for the first time.
 

 
Here’s a version (oddly in color, the only one on YouTube, the rest are all B&W) of Reed and Cale performing a languid, stoned and thoroughly unplugged “I’m Waiting For The Man”:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Watch Lou Reed interview his 100-year-old Polish immigrant cousin in his short film, ‘Red Shirley’
04.16.2014
05:57 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Lou Reed
Red Shirley


Lou Reed and his 100-year-old cousin, “Red” Shirley Novick
 
Lou Reed’s deeply personal directorial debut does not ease the audience into its heavy subject matter slowly. In the very first shot, we see his cousin Shirley Novick on her 100th birthday. She dedicates the film to her hometown in Poland, and the Jews that once resided there. She says she wants to talk about her family who died in the Holocaust, along with all the Jews of her town, and she thanks her cousin for the opportunity to tell her story. Off-camera you hear Lou’s unmistakable voice, “Is that the statement?” She nods and he gives a little applause.

What follows is the recounting of a truly fascinating life. During World War Two, Shirley’s town was under siege, and she remembers hiding in the Russian church as a child while Russian and German troops fought it out. At 19 she left Poland with two suitcases and settled in Montreal for six months. Finding it too “provincial,” she left for New York—Lou laughs a little at the idea of a 19- year-old-girl from the shtetl finding someplace “too provincial.” With the help of an uncle, Shirley found work in New York’s infamously exploitative garment industry—she was a real live factory girl. What followed was 47 years of ardent labor activism—she even joined the 1963 civil rights march on Washington. Despite her hand in fighting for a more just United States, she never became a legal citizen, on principle.

Despite the struggle and tragedy throughout her life, Red Shirley is ultimately a very warm film, and not without levity. At one point she recounts a shell hitting her family’s home that failed to detonate and how they just left it in the wall unable to remove it. Perhaps a little overwhelmed by the brutal conditions of Shirley’s early life, Lou just starts laughing, saying, “This is terrible.” He also replies with a lot of “You can’t be serious,” and “You’re joking,” and it seems not so much from actual disbelief, but from that incredulity one feels when they hear a very intense personal story. Lou is visibly tickled by her company, and witnessing their affectionate conversation is an intimate experience. The film is both technically and emotionally lovely.
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Lou Reed and Brian Eno, together at last: it’s ‘Metal Machine Music For Airports’


 
When the mashup phenomenon hit remix culture a dozen or so years ago, I found the whole business exhilarating. DJs were gleefully combining a capella tracks with instrumental beds from often wholly incompatible songs and making it work, sometimes giving valuable new context to classics, sometimes even creating tracks that improved on both of their sources. People like dsico, Freelance Hellraiser, and the massively gifted and almost frighteningly prolific Go Home Productions were fashioning technically impressive and admirably witty pop-song syntheses.

What I’m sharing with you today isn’t nearly as advanced as all that.
 

 
Some clever or stupid person (it’s such a fine line) using the nom de YouTube “machined01” has mashed up Lou Reed‘s immortal noise prank Metal Machine Music with Brian Eno’s groundbreaking Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Not a dazzling technical feat, surely, but the results, surprisingly, are really lovely.
 

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 1
 

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 2
 

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 3
 

‘Metal Machine Music For Airports 4

Feel free to kick the concept up a level and play all four at once.

Here’s a fantastic TV clip of Eno talking about Music For Airports, and how he arrived at the ideas that would codify just about all of the ambient music that followed. It’s not very long, and well worth the few minutes of your time.
 

 
A big ol’ hat tip is due to Pitchfork/The Wire scribe Marc Masters (who also co-wrote the book on No-Wave, as it happens) for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Amusing TV commercial for Lou Reed’s sleazy ‘Sally Can’t Dance’ album, 1974
02.25.2014
10:43 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Lou Reed


 
Last week when I stumbled across that corny 1974 Bowie TV commercial for David Live, I spied another oddity of the same vintage: A 30-second TV spot for Lou Reed’s ultra sleazy Sally Can’t Dance album!

Wait, what? A Lou Reed TV commercial from 1974? At the height of his speed-shooting, bleached-blonde black nail-polish bi/gay persona? That’s right, apparently someone thought it was a good idea to push the Rock-n-Roll Animal’s career over the airwaves before it peaked. It’s not like a stone cold FREAK such as Lou Reed was going to get on American television otherwise was it?

As Lester Bangs noted of Reed around this time:

“Lou Reed is my own hero principally because he stands for all the most fucked up things that I could ever possibly conceive of. Which probably only shows the limits of my imagination.”

Let’s not forget that Reed often had quite the imagination for fucked up things. I feel sorry (not really) for the unsuspecting TV viewer who bought Sally Can’t Dance based on this rather innocuous spot only to find songs about electroshock therapy (”Kill Your Sons”), a girl who “took much meth and can’t get off of the floor” (the title track) and of course, “Animal Language” which is QUITE LITERALLY about a dead dog and a dead cat that want to fuck, but can’t, so they decide to shoot up a fat man’s sweat (lyrics here, for your convenience).

More from Lester Bangs:

“Lou Reed is the guy that gave dignity and poetry and rock ‘n’ roll to smack, speed, homosexuality, sadomasochism, murder, misogyny, stumblebum passivity, and suicide, and then proceeded to belie all his achievements and return to the mire by turning the whole thing into a monumental joke ...”

Although Lou Reed has always been dismissive of Sally Can’t Dance, due to his own, er, passive involvement in its creation (there are stories about Reed being so fucked up that he had to be propped up in the studio to record his vocals) to my mind it’s one of his BEST albums. In many respects, Sally Can’t Dance, I’d argue, is the very quintessence of the amibsexual, druggy Reed thang of the early to mid-1970s. It even presages Bowie’s Young Americans white-boy funk phase by a year or so.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Songs for Drella’: Lou Reed and John Cale pay tribute to Andy Warhol, live 1989
01.10.2014
12:18 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Lou Reed
John Cale


 
When Lou Reed and John Cale’s collaborative tribute to Andy Warhol, Songs for Drella, came out in 1990, I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. It felt really forced. Over time it came to grow on me, but seeing the suite performed onstage, in the form of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman’s video documentation of the piece, really brought it alive.

Songs for Drella was part of 1989’s “Next Wave” festival at BAM and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to see something staged there, well, the lighting design and the general production values are usually more on a level of a Broadway show than a typical rock concert. Songs for Drella is essentially a theater piece and the visuals provide much of the enjoyment as well as a vague narrative. The songs are roughly in chronological order as they tell the story of Warhol’s life, from Pittsburgh, his early days in NYC, getting shot and his worldwide fame. The narrator changes from first person (Warhol’s POV), third person descriptions and Reed and Cale’s own commentary, as both longtime friends and collaborators with the artist.

According to a photographer I knew who shot the two of them around this time, Reed and Cale seemed to absolutely loathe each other. He described them as the two biggest bastards he’s ever been hired to shoot, in fact. Hissing snakes. The pair apparently vowed never to work together again, but they did anyway, for the ill-fated Velvet Underground reunion of 1993.

Shot on December 4–5, 1989 without an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Songs for Drella came out on VHS and Laserdisc, but as yet, has still not come out on DVD. The album itself was recorded in the weeks after this was taped.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
More Lou Reed bootlegs than you can shake a stick at
12.05.2013
01:01 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed


 
MetalMachineManiac’s YouTube channel is stuffed to the gills with top quality live Lou Reed concerts. It’s a treasure trove of great music. Shows dating from the 1970s to performances from recent years. No solo Reed era is under-represented and there are dozens and dozens of full shows (and often individual songs as well).

I could post so many great shows, but here are a few notable selections from the 1970s…

Live in Sheffield, September 9th, 1973

Live In Stockholm, 1974. This one is positively amazing.

With Doug Yule live in Providence, 1975. One of the single best live Lou Reed shows, I’ve ever heard. As one of the YouTube commenters points out, “the band is like the Max’s Kansas City-era Velvets with a saxophonist.” Yes it is.

Here’s something complete different, a 1973 set with The Moogy Klingman Band.


Below, the Rock and Roll Animal interviewed at the Sydney Airport, 1974:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Luciano Pavarotti sings ‘Perfect Day’ with Lou Reed, 2002
11.20.2013
07:20 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
Opera
Pavarotti


 
This Pavarotti and Friends special from 2002 was actually a benefit for Angola, and while it was performed and filmed in Modena, Italy, it got some pretty big international names. Andrea Bocelli was obviously there (the other really, really famous opera singer), as well as Grace Jones (cool!), James Brown (wow!), and Sting (eyeroll). And out of all those weird pairings Luciano and Lou is still the weirdest, but honestly, I’m so happy this exists. I love opera, and I love that Lou made a daring choice with the song.

Maybe the execution is a little unwieldy, but really, the song is a perfect choice for Pavarotti! Dramatic delivery, romantic swells—the song is perfectly primed for operatic pathos. Plus, Pavarotti’s stage makeup here could totally hold its own to glam-era Lou Reed. That brow pencil work is some expert-level shit.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Lou Reed’s sweet side: Behind the scenes of the ‘Transformer’ documentary
11.14.2013
04:51 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
Lou Reed
Henry Scott-Irvine


 
Guest contributor Henry Scott-Irvine shares his experience working with Lou Reed on the Classic Albums - Lou Reed: Transformer documentary:

In the summer of 2000 Series 3 of the Classic Albums documentary brand cranked into pre-production with a roster of some twelve shows. Four of these would air on ITV during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, including most notably “Transformer.” The TV schedules signaled that if the England game was delayed or moved Classic Albums’ Transformer would feature before or after an important game. With the play-offs split between South Korea and Japan, the “Transformer” transmission had a potentially vast audience during late night soccer primetime. I recall sitting in a room filled with friends at midnight on a Saturday in June 2002 when ten million Brits watched this marvelous ‘making of’ documentary.  Oh how Lou must have smiled.

The road to this TV success was not altogether smooth. Lou had a reputation for being notoriously difficult and was rumored to hate both journalists and film makers. This was evidenced by tales of his kicking over cameras during his UK performances in 1973. “So who writes these things about you, if they’re not true?” said an Australian journalist in 1974. “Journalists,” replied Lou dryly. Flying on to New Zealand, Lou found himself amid a televised press conference at the airport. “Why do you write songs about transsexuals? Are you a homosexual or a transsexual?” Lou mumbled, “Sometimes” and shrugged. He curtailed his first Australasian tour by flying straight back out of New Zealand without performing there.

As Classic Albums series 3 Archive Producer, I set about seeing if footage survived from the original studio sessions of December 1972 and from the Transformer world tour of 1973. Nothing transpired from the recording sessions, apart from the original 16 track 2 inch master tapes. However, wonderful hitherto unseen footage of “Walk On The Wild Side” survived from Paris in 1973. Filmed with only one camera from a balcony, Lou was wearing white Japanese Kabuki-style face paint with black eye shadow and a black leather suit. Lou feigned a shuffle-step dance, appearing to be slightly out of it, before stumbling to sit down in order to conclude the song. It sounds potentially disastrous, but it was mesmeric. We had to have it!

The Institute of National Archives, France, quoted an ‘all media non exclusive license deal’ of ‘10,000 Euros per minute’, immediately scuppering our plans.  Instead we opted for three ten second bursts of this footage. Belgian and American footage of the 1974 tour only contained below par audio and just one song from Transformer, as a consequence, Lou was informed of this before agreeing to give Classic Albums up to six one minute acoustic solo performances of his choice from the album. These would be performed live and filmed in New York in the early spring of 2001 when director Bob Smeaton flew out with a film crew to undertake the proceedings.

Photographer Mick Rock provided a whole bunch of his magnificent period pictures for an agreed fee, enabling some truly wonderful montage sequences, which brought the ‘making of’ Transformer to life when intercut with Lou and engineer Ken Scott listening to all of the original album parts. It seemed at that particular juncture that the film was on a win-win footing. But on the first day of interview filming in New York, Lou brought along the writer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders for moral support, and suggested that he be included in the film, which he was. There was a tension in the air at this point and Lou was quick to point out that Timothy was “an award winner.” Bob Smeaton quickly responded, “I’ve got two Grammy’s. One for The Beatles Anthology and one for Jimi Hendrix Live At Fillmore East.” This “impressed Lou,” alleged Bob.  A further day of interviewing took place as a result of this newly found mutual respect, during which time Lou recalled how people threw their handkerchiefs at The Beatles and their knickers at Tom Jones, “Whereas with me they threw syringes and joints”. This quote made it into the final cut, as did Lou’s concluding phrase, “Bob. It’s been a pure pleasure!”

Additional archive footage from the 1980’s was added to the documentary, and in late May 2001 Lou Reed was sent an ‘approval copy’ to assess. We waited several days without a response.  On May 30th 2001 I was alone in the production office at lunchtime when the production company telephone rang. A New York accent asked if this was “The Classic Albums people?” I was convinced that this was my friend John Brett, who can do a mean New York accent. “Is that you John?” I said. “Do I sound like a John?” said the voice at the other end. “This is Lou Reed. To whom do I have the pleasure?” I quickly explained that I was the Archive Producer. When Lou asked about the lack of archive in the rough cut, I explained about the ludicrous costs, and then cheekily recalled how he had often kicked over cameras when crews had filmed him back in 1973. “You’ve got a Noo Yawk attitude, old boy!” he said. I told him I’d never been there. He laughed dryly and quietly said, “Take a compliment, why don’t you?” adding, “D’you like your employers?” “No”, I replied, “Me neither”, he said. “So that makes two of us. See. I told you you’d got a New York attitude.” He laughed huskily and seemed genuinely amused at my insouciance. He told me he would be reporting to the “executives” later that day, “Or perhaps they could do me the courtesy?” he concluded.

The following day at the same time, 1pm sharp, Lou phoned the production offices once again and asked for “Henry.” Luckily I had picked up the phone. We chatted some more and laughed a lot. Lou was a little unhappy that the film crew had under lit his face, making him look like a cross between Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein and Vincent Price’s Dr Phibes (my description not his). He was also concerned about the sequence featuring a transvestite putting on makeup. “In the song “Make Up” somebody filmed a rather tepid and plain drag putting on makeup. Why not be the sports that you are and use someone beautiful? After all, the female on the back of Transformer really is a man, or didn’t you guys know? So let’s have a little glamor, eh! Tell that to Bob, old bean.” I wrote everything down and handed the notes to the director. The drag sequence was removed and replaced with a newly shot sequence. More of Lou’s “devastating wit” was included, and Lou’s magnificent craggy face remained as it was. Lou later wrote in to say, “I am impressed by how good and interesting the show is!” The film went on to receive worldwide praise, transmitting globally with DVD availability, too.

Some three years later I was producing the Fremantle documentary Punk Attittude and wanted to use some Lou Reed performances. In this instance I was meant to ask Lou Reed’s manager. But instead I wrote directly to Lou reminding him of the two conversations we had had in May 2001. Expecting no reply, he wrote back with, “Henry. How could I forget you old boy? Consider it done. Send me the license deal and I’ll write ‘Waiver. No fee applicable’.” Some weeks later, true to his word, the agreement was returned as promised. I kept these emails and my notes of the conversations we had had all those years ago tucked away in my DVD of Classic Albums’ Transformer.

I think Lou was really decent. He had a great dead pan sense of humor and he’d shared some of that with one of the production team when he didn’t have to. “How about that?” as he often said, how about that indeed!

The “Perfect Day” sequence from the Classic Albums: Transformer includes an interview with co-producer Mick Ronson which was an outtake from the BBC TV series Dancing In The Streets, a history of Rock Music from 1996. This was the last interview that Mick Ronson ever gave to camera and it was filmed inside the former Hammersmith Odeon, the venue where David Bowie (and Ronno) had done the final Ziggy Stardust performance in 1973.  Aware of the fact that it was Ronson’s final interview, and quite clearly touched by the beauty of the raw track separation, Lou was close to tears (this appears at the 43 minute mark of the documentary). Avoiding being mawkish, director Bob Smeaton trimmed that particular moment. But you can still see how affected Lou was. It is a window into the soul of the great man, and the finest sequence in a documentary that deserved to win a Grammy.

Producer/researcher Henry Scott-Irvine is the author of Procol Harum: The Ghosts Of A Whiter Shade of Pale published by Omnibus Press in the UK, America, and Canada.
 

 
“Walk On The Wild Side” - Paris, 1973.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Hear Lou Reed’s tai chi music
11.12.2013
06:32 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
Tai Chi

Kung Fu
 
In Laurie Anderson’s first, brief public statement after the death of her lover Lou Reed, some people may have been surprised how much she emphasized Lou’s tranquil appreciation of nature, a product (in part) of his many years dedicated to the ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi:
 

Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.

 
This paragraph was one of five in the statement, also the longest paragraph of the statement.

I was reading a very insightful and informative remembrance of Lou’s life by the esteemed record producer Tony Visconti, and a detail towards the end caught my eye:
 

[O]ver the past 10 years, he became one of my best friends. I used to study tai chi in London, which has been a mainstay of my whole life. When I was speaking casually to David Bowie about how it was hard to find a teacher as good as the one I had in London, he said, “Why don’t you speak to Lou? Lou studies tai chi.” I said, “OK, that’ll be interesting.” Now I felt that I could confront Lou face to face.

All I had to do was mention those two words: tai chi. Lou just opened up like a flower and said, “Wow, I didn’t know you were interested in that. I have a great teacher and his name is Master Ren Guang-Yi.” I signed up immediately after I saw Lou’s teacher. Lou started a year earlier with the same teacher.

I had seen Lou hundreds of times in the past 10 years, mainly almost every Sunday in New York City at our Sunday class. We lived only four blocks away in the West Village. I would go over to his place and practice with him. We became very close friends.

We had people from all walks of life in our class, a banker, a plumber, a construction worker, a Japanese translator . . . all these varied people from all walks of life, and Lou was just one of us. Afterward sometimes as many of 12 of us went out for brunch right after class and Lou was right there sitting in the middle of it. It was wonderful. To know him on that level was just incredible. I can’t tell you how serious he was about it. He was one of the most serious people I know about studying some arcane subject like that.

-snip-

Last night at tai chi we were very choked up. The class is very, very strict. It runs a certain way. But the teacher turned to us at the beginning and said, “Can we have a moment of silence for Lou?” He got very emotional and turned to the back of the room and turned up the music that Lou made for us. He mad special tai chi music that we trained to at every sessions. The teacher turned up the music so loud that it was rattling the windows. It was a whole minute with this synthesizer drone, a very deep note that Lou made just for tai chi. The windows rattled and we’re sitting there in the tai chi position, the tears welling up. When the minute was over we resumed class. It started out extremely depressing, but it got better and at the end we had an impromptu storytelling period. We shared our memories of Lou.

 
So Lou Reed scored his own tai chi sessions.

As a prolific musician and artist, it isn’t surprising that Lou channeled his art into his tai chi, which was so important to him in his last years. In 2008 he released Hudson River Wind Meditations, a collection of music suitable for the practice of tai chi.
 
Hudson River Wind Meditations
 
In 2010 his own tai chi master, Ren GuangYi, released a DVD of tai chi instruction under the title Power and Serenity: The Art of Master Ren GuangYi. On Lou’s website, in an entirely humble and unfussy way, it states that the DVD ” features six new tracks of original music composed and performed by Lou Reed and Sarth Calhoun: ‘The Power of Red,’ ‘Cymbalism,’ ‘Power and Serenity,’ ‘Liquid,’ ‘Metallic Opera,’ and ‘Guitar Mountain.’”
 
Hudson River Wind Meditations:

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