I’m Set Free: The making of Lou Reed’s Take No Prisoners (An Oral History)

 

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Lou Reed liked to tell the story of how he came up with the title of his infamous/incredible 1978 live album, Take No Prisoners.

In early May of that year, on the road to promote his recently released Street Hassle LP, Reed and his band arrived to play at the Hotel Eveche in Montreal. “A little dump,” Reed described the place. “400 degrees, no air conditioning, a low ceiling and, like, 500 Canadians who were normally at war with each other. We walked out, and this guy yelled: ‘Lou! Lou! Take no prisoners!’ Then he took his head and smashed it as hard as he could to the drumbeat. We were taking bets that the man would never move again. But he got up and–BAM! BAM!– on the table. And that was only halfway through. What was gonna be the encore? He might cut his arm off…”

Released in November 1978, Take No Prisoners lives up to its name: it’s a record that comes at you like a headbutt. More than a simple document of the Street Hassle tour, Take No Prisoners is an extension of that album and its ideas: ideas about music, about sound, about attitude, and above all, ideas about “Lou Reed” and who and what he was – it’s like hearing his entire history pushed through the filter of his Street Hassle persona.

To tape the  record, Reed booked five nights back-to-back, May 17-21, at a favourite hometown venue, The Bottom Line, the 400-capacity Greenwich Village nightclub that, since opening in 1974, had become one of the city’s hottest spots, the site of career-shaping shows by the rising likes of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. “It was very exciting,” recalls Marty Fogel, the saxophonist who was a defining element in Reed’s sound during the period. “In New York City, The Bottom Line was The Place. And for Lou, it was like his living room.”

With Reed fronting one of the strongest, strangest and most flexible bands of his solo career, the music is great – when you can hear it. What you mostly hear on Take No Prisoners, though, is Reed just talking and talking and talking. The album’s most notorious feature is these long monologues: hysterical, vicious, filthy, speeding raps, laying waste to anything that crosses his mind – the audience, critics, Patti Smith, Barbra Streisand, his own personal history, people from Wyoming.

Sometimes, he replays a kind of schizophrenic trick he’d used on the Street Hassle LP, splitting himself up into different Lous, who then have conversations and arguments with each other on stage, like a one-man Rat Pack: “You political Lou?” “Political about what? Give me an issue, I’ll give you a tissue, you can wipe my ass…” Foulmouthed, odd, funny and speeding a mile a minute, the results saw his befuddled record company stamping a warning sticker on the LP before releasing it: THIS ALBUM IS OFFENSIVE.

Take No Prisoners would also fulfill Reed’s dream of recording a live record using the binaural technique – a plan he had been forced to abandon on the Street Hassle LP. But once again it proved problematic. His record company, Arista, initially mixed their own, non-binaural version of the live LP, which Reed vetoed, before taking his mountain of tapes and heading off to Germany to remake the album from scratch in full wraparound effect at binaural expert Manfred Schunke’s farmhouse studio.

Sure, other live Lou Reed albums may be better known. But, for some, Take No Prisoners will always be The One. We can only hope that, someday, someone might put together a box set of all the shows he recorded during that weeklong stand at The Bottom Line. In the meantime, though, here are the memories of some of Reed’s bandmates of working with him during that period, and how Take No Prisoners came to turn out the way it did.


VOICES

MICHAEL FONFARA: Bandleader and keyboards. Reed’s longest serving musical lieutenant of the 1970s, Fonfara played with him live between 1974-1980, and played on the sessions for albums Sally Can’t Dance, Coney Island Baby, Rock And Roll Heart, Street Hassle, Take No Prisoners, The Bells, and Growing Up In Public

MARTY FOGEL: Saxophone. Fogel was in Reed’s live band 1975-1979 and appears on the albums Rock And Roll Heart, Street Hassle, Take No Prisoners and The Bells.

ELLARD “MOOSE” BOLES: Bass. Boles first joined Reed’s band for the 1978 Street Hassle Tour, and remained until 1980, appearing on Take No Prisoners, The Bells and Growing Up In Public. Boles was particularly involved in the creation of the Take No Prisoners LP: when Reed decided to scrap the label’s original version and redo the entire record, Boles journeyed to Germany with him, to work alongside him on creating the final mix.

ROD O’BRIEN: Engineer. A veteran of the fabled Record Plant studio in New York City, O’Brien previously worked closely with Reed on the Street Hassle album.


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 MICHAEL FONFARA: The sound of Lou’s band evolved through various stages during the time I was with him. When I first joined Lou, in 1974, Lou wanted an R&B-sounding funky album for Sally Can’t Dance. That’s the main reason Danny [Weis, guitarist] and I were first brought into it. And we gave him that, and he was crazy about it. You know, Lou thought he wanted to be black for a little while. And then, after a bit of that, he kind of realised he wasn’t, and got a little embarrassed about it, and then he said “I don’t wanna do any of that stuff anymore, that’s my least favourite album…” And he made all kinds of noise about that, and so things switched around and kind of got away from the funky stuff. And I think that’s exactly where his Street Hassle song “I Wanna Be Black” came from, by the way. I actually thought Sally Can’t Dance was brilliant – except that Lou Reed would maybe be the wrong singer for it. I’d never seen anyone who looked like that, with the iron crosses shaved into his head. For an R&B guy like me, I thought, “Well, this is another touch…”

MARTY FOGEL: I had quit Lou’s band at the end of the 1977 European tour, where we’d recorded the live performances that were used on the Street Hassle album. The reason I left was all to do with the direction that was being suggested for the band at that point: his producer Richard Robinson said we should be doing punk noise. He said our playing was too refined. So, I quit. If that was the direction they were going in, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was really unhappy with the idea that that would have been the direction, and I left the band for a while. But I don’t think that was ever Lou’s idea – it was Richard Robinson’s idea. Because when it came time to go out on the road again after Street Hassle was released, Lou actually came to me, he came to my apartment in Montclair New Jersey, to ask me to come back into the band. I always felt that Lou himself really enjoyed the musicians that were part of his band during that period – enjoyed them both musically and personally, for the most part. Because we had lots of fun.

MICHAEL FONFARA: Lou and I used to do quite a bit of hanging for a while. I lived about two blocks away from Lou on the Lower West Side, just around the corner from Lou and Rachel. I got along with him. He’d call me up at three in the morning, “Michael, get over here…” And I’d go over, and it would turn out all he wanted to do was have a glass of Scotch and listen to some music and sit and blather for a while. A number of times, my wife and I were invited over for dinner, and Rachel would cook – and you never really wanted to eat what Rachel would cook, because Rachel didn’t know the first thing about cooking. But we spent a lot of personal time together in New York. We’d go out together, we joined a health club together – Lou wanted to learn how to work out, because he’d see me doing a work out, and he’d said, “Hey, I wanna do that, too, I wanna get strong.” And he did it. But I told him, “Lou, I don’t think you can do that and do as many drugs and as much booze as you’re doing at the same time. You’ll have to substitute one for the other, or at least, really reduce your intake if you’re going to keep up this kind of working out…” But Lou would go 100 per cent at everything he wanted to do, and he’d go 100 per cent at it until he went onto something different. He’d always go from one thing to another, he’d get tired of something pretty fast, and move on to something else. Actually, I later introduced Lou to Sylvia Morales, who he would eventually marry, and they hit it off straight away. I taught Lou how to play pinball properly. He didn’t know how to play pinball very well, and we’d go out to arcades, and he’d watch me and say, “How are you doing this?” I’d say, “Well, you gotta work both flippers, not just one at a time…” And we worked on it until he got to be a bit of a pinball wizard, we were going crazy with it. As a mater of fact, when he got married to Sylvia, he had the reception at a pinball parlour in Manhattan. There were big stacks of quarters on every pinball machine for the guests, and everybody in the place played pinball, because that’s what Lou wanted to do.

MOOSE BOLES: That band. That band was so underrated. We could take a breath together. I was always to Lou’s left, on the rear right as you look from the crowd. And I would watch Lou’s leg, I would watch his heel – sometimes, when he put emphasis on things, I’d watch him clench his fists, and I could tell if he wanted more emotion. Or I would take it, and duplicate that emotion on the bass, I would emphasise it, because I knew that’s what he was feeling. And that fed him, too, because he could realise that we were all there with him. I’m not saying this because I was in the band, but I have never heard a rock’n’roll band go from being on Twenty down to One in the middle of a heartbeat. But we could do that, and that was the most incredible thing.

MICHAEL FONFARA: Lou more or less let me run with it when it came to arranging things for live performance – and then he’d come in and say whether he liked it or not. Because Lou was just mercurial. And he really sort of approached every gig slightly different back then.

MARTY FOGEL: Lou let us do pretty much what we wanted to do. I don’t recall very much direction from him. I can’t remember Lou ever saying, “You must play this,” or, “Do it that way.” It was more like: here’s the song, and let’s play. What I did was, if there were certain lines in a song that I felt were appropriate to be doubled on saxophone, I would do that. Otherwise, I would just do it differently night to night – a lot of things I would do consistently, but there was a lot of freedom in his band at that time.

MOOSE BOLES: Right before recording Take No Prisoners, we went out on tour around the States and up into Canada, two months or so, twenty, twenty-five shows. I remember, one of the first shows on that tour, we were in Chicago, and Michael Suchorsky, the drummer, and I were about to go out somewhere and we heard this commotion going on in the hotel restaurant. We turned around, and we saw a girl getting grabbed and thrown to the floor. And we suddenly realised: it was Sylvia – Lou’s future wife. And so, Suchorsky and I, we ran into this room, and we just grabbed these guys, and we’re back-to-back, like cowboys in a western, punching people. I had this old guy in front of me, had him by the throat, and I was smacking the shit out of him. Finally some security came. So, we pick Sylvia up, she’s all roughed up, her lip is bloodied. I said, “You guys, wait here,” and I went running to the front desk and I said, “Call the police.” And they said, “Well, what’s wrong?” I said, “Some assholes, this old guy and some kid, have just attacked a girl…” And, all of a sudden, it all went into slow motion. When the police came, they were very slow, and they say, “Well, what guys? Where are they?” Until, finally, I saw a Cadillac pulling up outside, and I saw the guys getting in. I said, “That’s them, that car over there…” And then we find out: the guy I was hitting was a big mafia guy in Chicago, and the young guy was his nephew. They had roughed up Sylvia, because they thought…well, she was rock’n’roll, and they had made a pass at her, and she’d told them to go fuck themselves – and probably no one had ever said that to them before. This is a very true story. So, we call New York to let the record company know what’s going on. There were some things about the business that I didn’t know. But word came back that, yes indeed, these guys were mafia guys, and that Michael and I had to be taken away from the rest of the group. So, Lou went to another hotel, the remainder of the band went to another hotel, and Michael and I went to a different hotel on our own, and were told to stay in our room – because there was a contract out on our lives. Yeah. So, that was on a Tuesday, and we had to perform on the Friday, at a place called the Park West Hotel. So, by the Thursday, I couldn’t take it any more. I was climbing the walls. I later found out that, during this time, some people in New York were talking to Chicago, and getting to the bottom of this situation. But as far as we knew, the situation remained: there was a contract on our lives. Just on the two of us. I finally said, “Mike: I can’t deal with this. I’ve gotta go out.” And we just said: “Fuck it. They’re gonna see us onstage tomorrow night, anyway.” So, we ended up going out in Chicago Thursday night and raising hell. Well, Friday, we arrived for the show, and we found out just before we went on that the contract had been taken off, and it was safe for us to play. Can you imagine? This is supposed to be rock’n’roll, and all of a sudden I’m in a Scorsese movie. But, anyway: the plan was always to end up back in New York, and we would record five nights at The Bottom Line.

MICHAEL FONFARA: The Bottom Line was a New York nightclub that had all kinds of different acts. So, just imagine a nightclub that holds a few hundred people, and they’re all in seats, no dancing, with a big stage…I would say it held maybe 400 people.

MARTY FOGEL: Playing at The Bottom Line with Lou was always very exciting. Because, you know: You’re in New York City. There’s only one New York City. And the Bottom Line club was, if you were gonna play a club and not a concert hall, that was The Place to play. It was always very exciting. Those crowds were great, the music was great, yeah, those are good memories for me.

MOOSE BOLES: We recorded all the shows that week, and we did it in binaural sound. And, you know, the thing about binaural is, instead of regular mics, you record with replica human heads, with microphones in each ear. So one head was out there about 20 feet in front of the stage, and one was about 50 feet away from the stage, in the back of the room.

ROD O’BRIEN: Manfred Schunke, the expert in binaural recording we’d worked with for the Street Hassle album, sent over two of his binaural recording heads from Germany to record Take No Prisoners. And they were actually very easy to set up and utilise, and they sounded incredibly good.

MOOSE BOLES: The binaural idea was, you would make a recording in a way that you would actually hear exactly how it would be if you were in the room, at the concert, sitting in those different places. The audio was not 180 degrees, which stereo is; it was 360 degrees. Manfred had experimented: you would hear something coming from way off in the distance in your left ear, and you could feel it coming right through the top of your head, and then going out your right ear. Like, you know, at the very beginning of Take No Prisoners, when Lou appears and says to the crowd “What’s wrong, were we late…?” and then he strikes a match? The reason we did that is, if you listen wearing headphones, the sound of that match being struck goes all the way around your head. Not left to right: it goes all the way around. And that was there to show the binaural effect. And then the band come in: bam. So, listening at home on headphones, you’re there in the middle of the crowd. Actually, that thing he says, about being late? Everybody in the crowd had been standing outside, waiting in the rain before the show. They were kept waiting. And so it was very intense. But, yeah: then we came on and we did it.

ROD O’BRIEN: Those shows. It was five nights of Lou being Lou on stage. Which, some nights, was just incredible music, and some nights was just, y’know…Lou yelling at music critics that were sitting in the audience. Lou was a fascinating gentleman, y’know. I always liked working with Lou – you never knew what was going to happen. I remember one night there, and this was recorded, Lou just turned to the band on stage, and just shouted, “Key of D” – or whatever key it was – and then proceeded to, basically, create a song on the spot. And I called the president of the record label, Clive Davis, after that show and said, “This could turn out to be a great record.” That band just played really well with Lou – I mean, Lou would just turn around and go “Satellite of Love” and start, and the band would have to figure out the tempo he was gonna do, because it wasn’t always the same, it was very improvisational, sometimes brilliantly so.

MICHAEL FONFARA: Lou was just in his element there at The Bottom Line, and those nights were really long shows. Shows that we’d designed to go for an hour and a half to two hours, some nights he’d stretch it to almost four hours, just because he felt like keeping it going. I remember the band needing to pee…it was almost impossible. But Lou would just keep going and going and going and not let us stop, and you’d have no option but to keep on playing. And then, of course, he’d start talking between songs, these long raps, holding court.

MARTY FOGEL: The talking, yeah, Lou would do that back then – although not to the degree that you hear on that Take No Prisoners record. But here he was: he was in Manhattan, his hometown, five nights, and I think he just got into it, and the talking became more extensive than it was typically. The band from that period in general, 1978, was kicking-ass. If you check out some of the bootleg recordings around that period, like the Chicago show, the band is just unbelievable to me. The degree of interplay. And Take No Prisoners is a good example of that – except that you can hear the band better, hear the playing more, on some of these other bootleg performances. Take No Prisoners is great, but I’d prefer it if we had done a lot more playing and Lou had done a lot less talking. But, y’know: it’s his show.

MOOSE BOLES: There was one night, and it’s on one of the recordings, I think it was during “Walk On The Wild Side,” where Lou starts to verbally attack Clive Davis. And I remember, while we were on stage, Lou reaches down – there was some guy in the front row that kept on talking to Lou, and he had this hat on, like a bowler hat. And during the song, Lou just picks the hat off this guy’s head, and he flung it across the stage, I’m talking about 30 feet, right at Clive Davis’s face. You remember Oddjob in 007? Just like that. Luckily, Lou’s lawyer was there, Eric Kronfeld. Whenever we went on big tours or big things were happening, Eric was there to kinda supervise, and Eric reached up his hand in time and grabbed the hat out of the air. Yeah. The guy that was sitting next to Clive Davis, he literally threw up.

ROD O’BRIEN: The band worked really hard to keep up with Lou, because you never knew…as far as I remember, I don’t actually think they ever even got a real setlist for any of the shows, I think it was all spur of the moment with him at that time. I mean, there was probably a rough idea of how they were going to do it. I remember, there was a night where he proceeded to verbally attack a couple of music critics that were there, about a very wide variety of subjects, and this was all while the band was riffing away on the “Walk On The Wild Side” riff. And I don’t believe Lou actually sang one word of the song, in fifteen or twenty minutes. It was like watching a really good comic, like a Lenny Bruce or a George Carlin, riffing with music. It was brilliant.

MARTY FOGEL: Lou Reed was the funniest man I ever knew. His sense of humour, his wit, his timing was just better than all the top stand-up comics. I recall being at the Roxy in Los Angeles around then, and being in our dressing room, and a bunch of stars came in including John Belushi, from Saturday Night Live. They were hanging out in our dressing room and I had put my saxophones in a back corner, away from everybody, so that they wouldn’t get damaged by whoever came into our room. I put them in a place that nobody could get to – and John Belushi managed to crawl into that space, and knock over my saxophone. Now, I don’t know if Lou was even cognizant of that happening – but I think Lou either found Belushi obnoxious, or he just didn’t want anybody else to take the spotlight away from him on his own turf. But Lou then proceeded to cut Belushi, like, to ribbons, right there in front of all his own people. I mean, he just had the upper hand with John Belushi.

ROD O’BRIEN: Lou could be incredibly warm and personable, and we would laugh and stuff while we were making records – you know: something would go wrong, and we’d just crack up. But Lou said something once that I found incredibly interesting. There was a gentleman coming to interview him for some European magazine, and the guy came, and Lou got a phone call in the studio, saying this journalist had arrived. And Lou said, “Okay,” then reached over, and he took out his sunglasses, and he put them on, and he said: “Okay. This is the Lou Reed he’s gonna talk to.” And I wouldn’t say he was rude, but he was very…succinct in his answers with this guy. You know: “Do you like such-and-such?” “No.” “Are you gonna do this?” “Yes.” And when the gentleman left, Lou took his sunglasses off, and he said, “Okay, what were we doing, again?” And he was back to being this other person. I think in a lot of ways Lou was torn between what was expected of him, and who he was. I think he wanted to be just this person who went in and made music, and not the guy who had to do “Walk On The Wild Side” every night. He wanted to be a guy who went in and made stuff that would wake people up, shake people up, make them feel good, make them faint.

MICHAEL FONFARA: I spent a lot of time shooing the press away from Lou in the years we were together, because he would look like he was going to pull a switchblade on them if they even asked him a question, and I wanted as little trouble as possible. So they’d be yelling at him, and he’d whip around with the most vicious look on his face and say, “You come near me, you’ll be dead in a minute.” So, yeah, he was particularly volatile toward the press. I don’t think he appreciated what they’d done for him.

MOOSE BOLES: I think one of the things that Lou could share with the band was just that: he could take his mask off. He didn’t have to be “Lou Reed.” He could just be Lou. For the guys in the band, hanging together, he was just Lou. But, also, it was a fine line. No mistake: he had a temper like you have never seen. I mean, he scared the shit out of me. And he scared the shit out of most people, like The Rolling Stones…I remember meeting Van Morison one time in an elevator with Lou, and Van Morrison almost jumped out of his skin there and then when he saw Lou Reed. Oh yeah. He was vicious.

MARTY FOGEL: But Lou, he could be both an angel and a devil. If you ticked him off or he didn’t like something about you, he could go for the throat, and he could cut a person to pieces. That’s not the way he was, but on occasion he could get that way. Although, I prefer to think of his more beautiful side, which he definitely had. I’ll give you a personal example, which is very important to me. In 1978, my wife’s brother died of Hodgkin’s disease, he was a young man, 31 years old, and we were on tour. And knowing that he was dying, I left the tour, to be with my wife and her family, and Lou graciously let me go – he might even have cancelled a couple of concerts during my absence – and when I came back, Lou provided us with transportation, made sure  my wife and I were very comfortable in our hotels and totally went out of his way to accommodate us at this time of family tragedy and grief. So, he was really a person with a very generous heart, and at times he was very generous with the band besides, in terms of gifts and things.

MICHAEL FONFARA: After we’d finished those shows, I remember having to mix all that stuff we did those nights at The Bottom Line, and it just took a long, long time. I had stacks of two-inch tapes, literally floor-to-ceiling high. I remember doing it, mixing it – and then Lou coming in and saying he didn’t like it, and so we had to re-do the whole mix.

ROD O’BRIEN: I mixed another version of Take No Prisoners that didn’t come out, because I used a lot of the regular microphones in conjunction with the binaural. Lou decided he didn’t want that. He heard it and he said said, “Uh-uh.” Because he wanted the pure binaural experience. And I think the record company was a little disappointed that he’d rejected it, because I had turned in some mixes they had liked a lot…and I very carefully tried to remove a lot of the words he’d used on stage that weren’t going to get played on the radio. And Clive Davis was very happy about it, he thought it sounded really good. But, it was Lou’s record, and so he went off and mixed the album that I think got released. He went and did that in Germany. And when he said he was gonna remix the album, I didn’t take it personally. I was sorry that he didn’t like what I did, but it wasn’t like he pointed a finger at me and said, “You are the most evil man in the world.” He just said, “No, that’s not what I want,” and he was very adamant about it. I think I probably got more anger out of Clive Davis, actually, who, when he heard, was like: “…What do you mean he wants to go remix it!?!”

MOOSE BOLES: There’s a whole other version of Take No Prisoners lying around somewhere – the one that Arista records mixed, because that’s the one that Lou refused to release. But I never heard that. After we finished the shows, we went on hiatus for a while, and then I got a call from Lou. He told me that he had listened to a test pressing of the record that Arista had done, and he hated it. He told them he did not want it released. They went apeshit, but Lou said, “I don’t want it released, this is not what I wanted. Where’s the effect of the binaural sound?” So Lou then asked if anybody wanted to go to Germany with him, to re-mix the record. And I had never been. To me, the idea of going to Wilster, Germany, was fucking incredible.
So, Lou and I went out there, to Manfred Schunke’s studio, in Wilster, which was like a little postcard German town, a little Christmas card type place. In fact, we stayed there until there was snow on the ground. I believe we had 80 three-inch reels of tape delivered to Germany. And Lou and I sat down together, and we went through every single tape, every single song – and it wasn’t the same set list every night. So, we would listen to like five versions of this song, three versions of that song, and we’d have a rating system, y’know: three stars for this version or whatever. And we did that for every song that’s on that record, and then we chose which versions we were gonna put on there.
We weren’t necessarily looking for, y’know, “the slickest recording.” The criteria we used was, is the performance there? We wanted to give the listener the experience, if you’d never been to see Lou Reed, if you’d never been to a concert, and you wanted to fucking know what it was really like to be sitting in the audience? That’s what we wanted to give you. And that’s why the 360-degree sound was so important.
Lou, when he heard some of the recordings, like that version of “Walk On The Wild Side,” where he hardly sings a line of the song – when Lou heard that he was like… “What!? I love it!” You know, there’s been so many of the other versions released. But this one was: if you went to a Lou Reed show back then, you never knew what was going to happen. You never knew. I mean, we never knew, in the band.
So, anyway. We finally got one of the records finished, and we’re sitting in Germany playing it back, like one side. And Lou said, “Moose. I cannot take this anymore. I can’t take it. I gotta get out of here. I’m going to Italy. I’m going to Rome. I just gotta go. You know what to do, you know what I want” – because we had already worked it out and decided what the second album was going to be. So Lou said: “You go ahead and finish it with René, the engineer.” So, yeah, I finished the second record of the set by myself – the whole record you hear with “Satellite Of Love” on it, that’s mine, my mix, I did that whole thing by myself. And when I finally played it to Lou, I was kinda nervous, but the only thing he found that he didn’t like on there was on “Satellite Of Love,” the guitar didn’t come out like he wanted it to. He said, “Oh, you shoulda put the guitar up here.” I said, “Aw fuck, you’re right…” And by this time, this was our baby, y’know, we’d seen this thing through from 80 raw tapes. So we went into Sterling Sound together in New York, and we got the engineer that was there to tweak that part up. So, if you listen to “Satellite Of Love” on Take No Prisoners, you’ll hear at the very end where the guy filters up the guitars to make it right where Lou wanted it. I was very proud of that record.
I remember the whole time we spent mixing the record very clearly. Here’s Lou and I, sitting at the board in Germany. We’re there for about a month together. We’re mixing this record out there in the most beautiful setting you could ever imagine. When we had breakfast every day, we had a 40-foot plate glass window looking out into a field of cows, and there would be all kinds of animals wandering around – a farm in Germany, just beautiful, cows outside.
One night we went out to see this guy, Udo Lindenberg. He’s like the German Elvis Presley. We needed a night off, and it was Udo’s birthday, so he came to get us with a big Mercedes limousine. He had a driver with about a size 20 neck, and he was going to take us Hamburg, to the Star Club, to help us relax. So, Lou and Udo are in the back and I’m riding in the front with the guy with the big neck. And he’s literally doing about 130 miles-per-hour down the Reeperbahn. In the rain. And I’m going, “Mmm…pretty fast.” He just looks over and gives me a smile and nods his head. I mean, this guy is just moving. We’re passing shit like lightning, water spray is flying up way over our heads, it was pouring rain, and I was scared to death. So, after that car ride, Lou and I, we ended up getting a car, because we both said: “Never. Again.” We ended up renting a car. Lou rented it, and he said, “All I can get is a four-speed. I can’t drive a four-speed…” And I said, “Well, I can.” So me and Lou would go for a ride every day where I started teaching Lou how to drive.
So, yeah, I’m giving Lou Reed driving lessons in Germany. Lou’s like bucking the car, I had to explain to him how the clutch works, I had to take his hand and show him, so he could learn the flow between clutch, foot and gas. We’d stop there by the side of the road, I’d put him into gear. I mean this is the rock’n’roll animal, y’know.
And I had a 35mm camera with me, and Lou’d gotten a 35mm camera of his own, but he didn’t know how to work it, so I started showing him. We were out taking pictures in the street, and there was a German motorcycle gang, they saw us, and, aw, these guys were staring at me like they just wanted to beat me up there and then. And Lou was busy with his little camera meter thing, didn’t notice them. But then he looked up and saw them and said “Hey – look at these guys!” And they suddenly recognised him, and they were in heaven, you know, big fans, they started following him around like puppies.
Yeah. We were like highschool kids there in Germany. While we were mixing, we’d tell stories and be on the ground laughing. I don’t know if it was because of Johnnie Walker Black or the vodka, but we had a great time. No drugs, just alcohol. Lou and I used to play Mastermind together – you know that, the board game with the little pegs? Yeah. And I used to drive him crazy. Because Lou was good at everything. He is the pinball wizard, y’know. But I used to just kick his ass at Mastermind. And it frustrated the fuck out of him. He’d be like, “I don’t believe it. Again. I don’t believe it…Mooooose!”