Lou Reed - Lou Reed Live: Take No Prisoners
There are too many Lou Reed and/or the Velvet Underground live albums to count, but you could delete all but this and we’d be fine. Playing a small club in Greenwich Village in 1978, at the place and time of the birth of an underground music scene he’d played a large role in bringing into being, Reed recorded this wholly unique live album by walking into it poised as he would during one of his famously hostile press interviews. From the get-go, every song is interrupted by spoken word raps mocking Barbra Streisand, the draft, journalism, everything. As Reed himself says, “Give me an issue, I’ll give you a tissue. Wipe my ass with it.” As for the music itself; it’s unnervingly riveting to hear VU songs like “Pale Blue Eyes,” which got such a delicate treatment on record, blown up with such a jittery, druggy sound here.
The centerpiece is the D-side’s 17-minute take on “Walk On The Wild Side.” Reed talks through the entire thing, declaring, among many other things, “I do Lou Reed better than anybody, so I thought I’d get in on it.” He takes on his critics, even positive ones: “Fuck you! I don’t need you to tell me I’m good.” He has a rare, kind word for Andy Warhol, telling him, “I’m very glad that you’re around,” and talks about getting punched in the stomach by Norman Mailer—all of this heady fare for a live airing of a rock star’s big hit. The highlight comes when he tells the story of quitting the Velvet Underground and becoming a typist, at which point he was approached by some theater producers, who tell him, “We think you’re a very literate rock and roll person and after Ray Davies we think you’re the person that could take Nelson Algren’s book Walk On The Wild Side and do, like, a musical thing for off-Broadway.” Reed is characteristically suspect, and, predictably, this doesn’t pan out, but the experience led him to write the song he was currently performing (sort of), which kick-started his solo career. He stuck around making music for another four decades.