Perfect Sound Forever


Lou Reed is Playing at My House
By Al Spicer
(December 2013)

It must have been some time back in the nineties when, for one reason or another, I was spending a lot of weekends in the Big Apple. Anyway, although never found out how, Lou got hold of my number and a call came through.

Apparently, Laurie made the first approach. The office diary isn't precise, but it looks like her people spoke to my people to set things up. Whatever, one morning I answered my phone, fighting to reach it through a thick cloud of stale vodka and jet lag, and was jolted sober, wide-eyed and immediately on point by an instantly recognisable Long Island drawl.

Lou was calling from the limo, checking the details of my address and, in a polite middle-class way, just making sure I'd be expecting him on arrival. Twenty minutes later, I was shaved, showered dressed and three espressos ahead of the rest of the world, opening the door to the legend, the awe-inspiring, the magnificent Brit-hating Lou Reed.

He held a tiny portable amplifier, the kind that buskers play through on subway platforms, and carried, wrapped in a disposable black plastic garbage bag, a cheap Strat copy. I made coffee, squeezed juice, sliced melon and made toast while he tuned up and made himself ready, prowling round the loft like a rescued tomcat checking out his new home while doing his best to keep his anxiety out of sight.

I did my best as a well brought-up and educated host to put him at his ease: did he wish to sit, would he prefer tea to coffee, could I offer him a cigarette? He skimmed through the music magazines that I'd brought to look at on the plane over, and we chuckled over the latest kids to hail his former incarnation in the Velvet Underground without ever having listened to anything the band had ever recorded.

It was a perfect day in so many ways. He played me some of his favourite songs – his own and a few reverential cover versions. He had a bottomless stock of anecdotes; from his high school years, giggling over arguments with John Cale, full of self-parody regarding the lost decades – when speed and confusion span him between unflattering hairstyles and unsuitable partners of indeterminate gender. But ultimately, over a light lunch (Dover Sole and minted potatoes with a white wine sauce) conversation turned to his hidden passion and devotion to the British royal family.

Few suspected, and fewer knew for sure, how Lou doted on the majesty that had given England its spine and guts on the world stage. It would be too much to say he worshipped Princess Diana, but he was extremely fond of the ground on which she walked. His knowledge of the minutiae of the Windsors' private lives was scoured from gossip columns, and like so many Americans, he assumed that anyone from Britain was at least on nodding acquaintance terms with the Queen and her kids.

I always appreciated the fact that Lou respected my opinion on his work. I think he relished my honesty, and I'd like to think that in a small way, I helped put a polish on some of his songs.

When he left me that day, as always he simply stood up, unplugged, finished his drink, smiled and walked through the door. Skipping down the stairs he yelled a cheery “Seeya soon!” and was gone.

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