No mention of Lulu, the album Lou recorded with Metallica, recently released. (The angry phonecall may have involved news of the 1-star reviews iTunes users have been giving it. Ho-hum. Metal Machine Music took forever to be re-appraised, now it’s one of those albums elitists love, and love to hate the haters over. Whatever. I will buy it and force myself to listen to it until I love it, out of spite to everyone. As I will eventually get around to doing with Metal Machine Music.)
Meanwhile, my favourite story of a ‘Lou Reed sighting’ involves an in-store appearance during an Australian tour. Before I relate it, however, I should also tell a John Cale story.
The John Cale Signing
A mate of mine went to see Cale live, and afterwards, took his son to meet John Cale, who was signing autographs. But to secure an autograph, you had to buy the new album. That's all he was signing.
My mate’s son – the kind of kid every music nerd would be grateful for – had his own stack of John Cale-related vinyl. None of it was his latest CD, which you were supposed to buy at the merch booth after the gig.
“My son's got some records – is it okay if he gets these signed?” my buddy asked.
“Of course,” John Cale replied, stony-faced, in a monotone communicating, in no uncertain terms, it absolutely wasn’t. He then proceeded to ‘sign’ each album cover with jagged lines; diagrammatic representations of Toblerones every one of them. As he jerked the sharpie up and down to execute his ‘signature’, he stared impassively at my mate, not caring exactly where and how the dragon fangs landed on each cover.
The Lou Reed Signing
Another mate got to meet Lou Reed, not after a gig, but at an in-store signing. He was touring, and it must have been a condition laid down by his label: “sure, we’ll underwrite the tour; go to shops and flog copies of the new album.” This other mate is the brother-in-law of the guy whose son got John Cale’s mountain ranges on all his albums. He’s a big ‘first pressing, mono’ collector of vinyl. So of course, when Lou appeared in Fish Records signing copies of the new album on CD, he rocked up with a stack of vintage Velvet Underground vinyl.
They set the shop up very well: Lou Reed’s not as tall as you’d think. So the table he's sitting at is on a platform. You have to look up at him.
My mate looked up at him. Rather sheepishly. “I hope you don't mind,” he said, “I've brought some of your older albums."
Lou Reed stared impassively down upon him.
“Here's the deal,” he said.
Dare I say, Lou Reedily.
The pause between declaring there was a deal, and actually stating what that deal would be, seemed to last almost as long as the gap between the original life of the band known as Velvet Underground that Lou Reed fronted, and their reunion as U2’s support band decades later. But here, finally, was the deal:
“You bring ’em.”
“I sign ’em.”
My mate brought ’em.
Lou signed ’em.