When I was at college at Cambridge in the mid-Sixties, my favorite bands were the Velvet Underground and Captain Beefheart. I had a friend whose father was very involved in radio stations in England, and he would come back from London with all the latest kind of weirdo fringe records. I thought the Velvets were so badass. They were evil, in a good way. They didn't give a damn about anything, and they were talking about forbidden stuff, and that New York underground world seemed very glamorous to me as a British-based college student. I think the volume sometimes bugged my roommates. I really liked the collaboration with Nico, especially "I'll Be Your Mirror"; I thought that version was kind of magical and I fell in love with that.
I got to know Laurie Anderson in the early Eighties, and she was in England and friends of mine knew her and I was introduced to her and we became friends. We were having dinner at a friend's house, and I don't know how the subject of Lou came up, but I said something along the lines of how much his music has meant to me, and she said, "Well, that's good because I'm seeing him now." And I thought, A, it was a surprise and, B, thank goodness I said the right thing. She called him from this dinner in London and put us on the phone together. She said, "I've got someone here and he really likes your music, you should say hello." So, we said hello. And not a whole lot more, but I think I was stammering incoherently at the time. It was like having God's unlisted cell phone number.
A lot of Lou's stuff stands up very well with words without the music because his imagination is so genuinely strange. He never reaches for an obvious simile, he never says anything banal, and yet the language is not particularly complex. And that's a remarkable skill, to be able to be fresh and vivid and alive without going into linguistic complexity. I was listening to "New York Telephone Conversation" from Transformer. It's kind of slightly camp, and his voice, the way in which he delivers it, is done in a very kind of gossipy, kind of couple of old bitches talking to each other cattily almost. He characterizes in his own voice. I love that conversational thing — it's very hard to do.
My memories of Lou are these very kind of eccentric, non-Lou Reed kind of memories. He was very enjoyable company, one of the people I most liked hanging out with. We just did crazy things. I got a call from a mutual friend who said, "Lou wants to go see Pee Wee Herman's show on Broadway for a Christmas treat." We all went to see it, and Lou just had a ball. He really enjoyed it and went back afterwards and had pictures taken with Pee-Wee. I don't know who was the bigger fan, but I guess they were both fans of each other. One night in Brooklyn, Lou and Laurie and my artist friend Tony Fitzpatrick had one of the funniest dinners of my life at Peter Luger's restaurant, where Lou revealed an almost bottomless well of dirty jokes. He spent the evening telling them, and they were really very good. And I thought, "Who knew? I'm sitting with Lou Reed and he's got blue material."
The Lou Reed of these later years was doing Tai Chai and being a vegan and was very different from that early Lou Reed. Despite this ferocious exterior, in his private life amongst the people he cared about, Lou was really sweet and had a real gentleness. It got to the point where if we didn't speak to each other for a few weeks, he'd complain. He'd say, "So you don't like me anymore, you don't write, you don't call." And I thought, "Who would ever think that Lou Reed was like that, so caring of his friends, so wanting to be in touch with them that if they didn't call every week, he was upset?" The stuff people say about Lou, there was that side to him. But there was also this much quieter, more reflective or thoughtful side.