Ten things you never knew about… Lou Reed

Electroshock, Bangs and Bowie

The ultimate outsider, Lou Reed is Rock’s arch art icon, and reveals little of himself. So we’ve done it for him…

1. Lou Reed’s parents tried to “cure” his homosexual tendencies with electroshock therapy three times a week. This is documented in his song ‘Kill Your Sons’: “All your two-bit psychiatrists / Are giving you electroshock / They said they’d let you live at home with mom and dad / Instead of mental hospitals / But every time you tried to read a book / You couldn’t get to page seventeen / Cos you forgot where you were / So you couldn’t even read.”

2. Annoyed at having to work on Christmas Day, The Velvet Underground decided to get themselves sacked just two days after Andy Warhol first saw them. The manager of Café Bizarre (a club in Greenwich Village where the band had a residency) told them if they played ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’ one more time they’d be fired. So they did.

3. After quitting The Velvet Underground, Reed got a job at his father’s tax accounting company. He earned $40 a week working as a typist for around a year before signing with RCA and releasing his first solo album.

4. Upon releasing his first solo album, Lou Reed summarised his life for the presentation of his image. He gave ten facts to his record company, RCA. The list included “Exile and great pondering”, “Lawsuits and depression” and “Expelled from R.O.T.C. for threatening to shoot officer”.

5. The lyrics “But she never lost her head / Even when she was giving head” from 1972’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ weren’t banned by the BBC because the censors didn’t know what “giving head” meant.

6. If Lou Reed didn’t want to do an interview, he was known to send a roadie in his place – many people didn’t notice the difference.

7. After making some anti-Semitic comments, Reed was asked if he was Jewish, to which he replied: “Of course, aren’t all the best people?” However, when asked by rock journalist Lester Bangs about how his songs relate to being Jewish, Reed contrarily answered that he didn’t know any Jewish people.

8. In 1979 a fight broke out at the dinner table between Lou Reed and David Bowie. Reed went for Bowie after Bowie advised him to clean up his act shouting, “Don’t you EVER say that to me! Don’t you EVER fucking say that to ME!”

9. Lou Reed once said the reason he wore sunglasses on stage was because he couldn’t stand the sight of the audience. He’s recently gone the other way, promoting a range of Italian flip-up glasses called Lou’s Views. According to the press release they are “ironic and sophisticated like a Lou Reed song”.

10. In 2001 many US radio stations falsely reported the death of Lou Reed after receiving a hoax email from someone purporting to be Reuters news agency. The announcement claimed that Reed was found dead in his apartment after overdosing on the painkiller Demerol.

Words by Emily Anderton

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