I had only one real encounter with Lou in my life. But it was a pip. In 1978, when I was but a lowly record store clerk in Times Square, one unremarkable morning, Lou Reed strolled in.
Everybody knew who he was; everybody was too afraid to wait on him. Nervously, I decided to step up to the plate. I asked “Mr. Reed” if there was anything I could help him with. Unsurprisingly, he fixed me with that famous glacial stare and in that even more glacial voice said, “No.”
Still, after wandering around for 15 minutes, he relented and asked for my assistance in locating a certain record. What was it? I bet you’re wondering. Alban Berg, Ornette Coleman, Little Richard? I’m laughing as I’m writing this. Because Lou said, “Do you have I Wanna Kiss You All Over?” I anticipated a ruse. I was wrong. When Lou didn’t give me a gotcha smile, I walked him over to the Rock section and found that awful record by the band Exile we clerks had been hearing in the store, on the radio, and in our dreams by that point.
I actually knew why Lou wanted it. Aside from his legendary way with words and chords, he was also known to be a real sound geek. A tech freak. The first man to record in Binaural. A guy who, despite the Punk uprising at the time, actually wanted his records to please your ear, while upsetting your psyche. Still, as I got the disc and we went to the register to ring it up, I couldn’t help but fuck with The Great Man-just a little. “Why on earth do you want this?” I teased, as I bagged the album. Every bit as poker-faced as Dirty Harry, carrying his same soupcon of humor, Lou looked at me and said, “Because I like it.”
He thanked me, tersely, then walked out into dirty, dangerous, drug-soaked New York. A city that sometimes seemed to be copying Lou and his songs, not the other way around. I stood there, elated, that I’d been able to wait on one of the few guys I ever met in my life, who changed the art form I so dearly loved. Hell, who even made it possible to call an art form. I went to the door and watched Lou Reed walk up Broadway, then turn the corner on 45th street. He was gone. And I never saw him again.
Lou Reed’s Last Great Album
Norton Records Remembers Lou Reed
The Voice’s 1967 Review of Velvet Underground’s Debut Album
New Yorkers Remember Lou Reed
The Voice’s 1972 Review of Lou Reed’s First Solo Performance
The Voice’s 1970 Review of Velvet Underground’s Last Performances
More:Lou Reed 1942 - 2013