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Music

Remembering the dramatic moment Lou Reed punched David Bowie in the face

@LeeThomasMason

We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to bring you one of our all-time favourite rock and roll relationships as the great Lou Reed and David Bowie came to blows.

While the two may have been the best of friends for decades, David Bowie and Lou Reed certainly went through some seriously tricky moments in their relationship, most notably when the Velvet Underground man attempted to pummel the Thin White Duke over dinner.

The incident, which was initially chronicled by Bowie: The Ultimate Music Guide, saw the dynamic duo come to blows after a show at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1979. After the performance, Bowie, Reed and some of the band members left the stage and made their way to the Chelsea Rendezvous restaurant for some food and a catch up.

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At one point, Reed asked Bowie if he’d be interested in producing his ninth solo studio album, The Bells, to which Bowie kindly agreed. However, in a sobering and somewhat cutting moment, Bowie said he would only work with Reed on the album if he agreed to get sober and clean up his act. It was an ultimatum the New Yorker didn’t take kindly too.

Reed, already half cut, allegedly lurched across the table and grabbed Bowie by the scruff of the neck and began punching him in the face.

Reed was eventually dragged off Bowie and escorted out the building, both rock stars screaming insults at one another to stunned onlookers. “As a guitarist in the Lou Reed band at that time, I was actually sitting next to both David and Lou at dinner when this exchange took pace, I can tell you exactly what transpired verbally,” Chuck Hammer once said in an interview with Uncut.

“Lou had been discussing details regarding his upcoming new album — as yet unrecorded,” Hammer added. “Lou asked David if he would be interested in producing the record and David replied yes — but only upon the condition that Lou would stop drinking and clean up his act. And upon that reply, the aforementioned chaos ensued.” It was a largely humble request from Bowie, the Starman himself had only recently shaken himself out of a cocaine binge that had lasted years. It was clear that drugs were no longer a driving force for the chameleon of rock. 

Hammer added: “It should be noted that this verbal bantering also continued into the night back at the hotel — with Bowie in the hallway demanding that Reed ‘come out and fight like a man’ Eventually it all quieted down as Lou never reappeared to continue the fight, and was most likely already fast asleep.”

The pair did, of course, kiss and makeup in the days and weeks that followed. Despite that, Bowie didn’t end up working with Reed The Bells, instead, Reed returned to his longterm collaborator Nils Lofgren for the project.

It would prove to simply be a spot on the pair’s relationship. Alongside Iggy Pop the trio were the triumvirate of rock in the seventies and we can’t think of a happier relationship.

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