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Marc Riley On Interviewing Lou Reed
John Doran , February 24th, 2013 12:50

All roads in music journalism lead to one place: a fraught conversation with a moody Lou Reed. Marc Riley remembers his two encounters with Chuckles

When I was interviewing Lou Reed on the phone, at the end of the interview I said, 'Do you remember an award you got for services to songwriting on the Berlin album by Stereo Magazine?' He said, 'Yeah, it was black wasn't it?' I told him that I had it, and asked him if he knew how I'd come into possession of it. He said, 'I don't know, maybe you stole it off me.' I told him it wasn't quite like that. I told him I'd bought it on eBay. I asked him how it ended up on eBay and he said, 'Oh, you know, I probably threw it out of the window one day.' I said, 'Would you like it back?' He said, 'No, no, it's yours, you bought it.' I said, 'No, you should have it. You're playing the Apollo [in Manchester], I'll drop it off for you.'

So when he came to the Apollo, playing Berlin, I went to the stage door and said to Sarge, the guy who works there, will you give that to Lou Reed's tour manager. I went and watched him do Berlin, with Steve Hunter on guitar, really fabulous. Two weeks later I was sitting down to some food and my mobile goes and it's Lou Reed's tour manager. He said, 'Is that Marc? I've got Lou Reed here for you.'

Tracey was just putting my dinner down, and I obviously went a bit ashen. He said, 'Marc…. It's Lou Reed here.' So we had a conversation for about ten minutes and he was saying that his TM gave him the package while he was on stage doing the soundcheck, and he opened it, and he couldn't believe it after all those years. He said he held it up in front of the band and they all started cheering. He asked if he could pay me for it, but I was like, no, if you're happy, I'm happy.

So that was that, but then against my better judgement I ended up being persuaded to interview Lou Reed again about Berlin for 6 Music, with the premise being that he would go through each song. So I said to the producer, 'Look, it's a concept album and it does hang together, it doesn't need explaining like an album of disparate songs might. It's a story.' But after a long conversation, I ended up agreeing to interview Lou Reed again down the line, bearing in mind I'd already had this conversation with him.

He kept me waiting for ages. I could hear him eating his tea and having a row with his PR about something, so it was awkward before it even began. Eventually he started the interview. So I asked him, 'How did this seed of one song from your first album grow into this big concept album?' And he just said, 'Are you serious?' And inwardly I just went, 'Oh God.' And in the end I just had to say to him, 'I think we're done aren't we?' And he said, 'Yeah, I think we're done.' It lasted about seven or eight minutes. It was a nightmare.

Marc Riley's Baker's Dozen will be published on the Quietus tomorrow.

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