lou reed’s garage

LAST NIGHT I WENT to see Lou Reed in his garage. This is actually a second building on his property out on Long Island that he has also converted into a studio, and which serves as well as a makeshift museum for Velvet Underground memorabilia. I thought he was going to dish on the creative good stuff, but like too many pro musicians, he just wanted to talk business. “And that’s when our new manager came in and we actually started making some money,” and so on. There were also some never-before-seen promotional photos for The Velvet Underground & Nico featuring Nico dressed up in banana yellow, with the rest of the band crowded around her in their vintage 1967 hipster attire, and the Chrysler building in the background. Nico looked quite sexy in the photos. That banana yellow brought out her charm. How did I never notice that Nico was so sexy? How had this fact of the universe avoided me? For whatever reason, I decided not to impart this observation to Lou Reed. Maybe he would get jealous? And wasn’t he bisexual or something? Better not to tell Lou. “But Lou, why do people like this album so much?” I asked. “So many people tell me that this is their favorite album. Why this one? Do you really think it’s that good?” “If you’ve never heard something that sounds like that before, then I think you would be inclined to think that it’s good,” said Lou licking his lips. “If you’ve never had that experience before, you are more inclined to remember it. That is how ‘Venus in Furs’ becomes a seminal event in any person’s life, that very first time they hear it.” Who was I to argue with the man? “Do you remember where you were, the first time you heard it?” he asked. I remembered it quite well. There was a high school girl I knew who spoke admirably of bondage. She became my imaginary “Venus in Furs” plenty of times. “Do something new and they will love you for it, eventually,” said Lou. “Andy taught me that.” “But what about John,” I pressed on. “John who?” “John Cale, your viola and bass player. I always loved his story. He moves to New York from Wales and joins the Dream Syndicate, and then Velvet Underground. The two coolest named bands that ever were.” Lou just shook his head as he rummaged through stacks of shelved demos from circa 1969-70. This is the part of Lou Reed’s garage that he refers to as the Velvet Crypt. Apparently, they cut a whole other album around the same time Loaded came out that no one has ever heard for legal reasons. “You know, the problem with John is that he was never good at making any money in the music business,” said Lou. “I had to take him under my wing for a while, show him the ropes. I hear he’s raking it in now.” He said it with some satisfaction, but also a hint of sadness, as if he had been waiting here in his garage every day for the Welshman Cale to ring him, waiting while thumbing through old tapes and smoothing and and rerolling old Velvet Underground posters, waiting for his old buddy to thank him for his advice. The call, alas, had never come.

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