“Are you happier as a schmuck?”: Lou Reed loses his cool during an interview in 1975
Lou Reed’s career has not been without its friction. The singer’s journey, from the Velvet Underground to his solo work has seen the artistic endeavour of Reed often butt heads with the media that seeks to cover it. The artist has always seen himself as an unruly zoo animal when attending press junkets, caged and dangerous, Reed invariably found himself dishing out serious attacks to those who crossed him.
Reed was once called journalists the “lowest form of life” and his appreciation for music critics and writers, as well as the laborious task of answering identikit questions, wasn’t something that he developed in his later career. Reed has always hated journalists and their desire to unravel the mysterious work he had worked hard to create. This clip from 1975 is proof of that.
The singer was in Sydney promoting his latest record Metal Machine Music and arrived following a previous media melee in 1974 at the same airport that greeted him now. While that moment, with Reed’s hair shaved and bleached blonde, remains a famous tableau in the singer’s iconography, this 1975 encounter is even better.
It sees Reed in aviator shades and fluffy hair, bemused by the sheer concept of talking to the press, and in no mood to answer questions in any meaningful manner. Dangerous Minds transcribed a segment of the interview which makes for entertaining reading and a quick snippet of Reed’s cantankerous attitude at the time. Reed was rightly seen as the top of the pile for awkward interviews and when you read excerpts like the one below, it’s hard to contest it.
Every reason Lou Reed was a difficult interviewee is below:
LR: Don’t believe what you read. I: No, I don’t. LR: Don’t believe what you see. I: Is it true that you wrote Sally Can’t Dance in the studio? LR: If I say so, I guess…. I: But did you? LR: I wasn’t there! I: You were there. LR: No I wasn’t. Dougie [Yule] did it. I: Are you happier as a brunet? LR: Ahh…. are you happier as a schmuck? I: I’m no schmuck. LR: I’m no brunet. I: You were blond last time. LR: No I wasn’t. I: You were. LR: I was a bleach blond. I: A bleached blond. LR: Trashy blond. I: You looked younger as a blond. LR: Well, you look older. I: I’m not a blond, though. LR: I know, it’s worse.
Even for Lou Reed, this run of dialogue must make for some of the most obtuse interview answers you’re ever likely to read. Reed was clearly in no mood to play around following his 12-hour flight, touching down in Australia. If you’ve ever had to face border patrol questions after a long flight, you may be able to sympathise with the singer.
Depending on your propensity for watching cringeworthy car crash television (ours is pretty high), the video below may be too much to handle as it does include some of the most unwatchable interview questions you’ll ever come across. It is Lou Reed at his most defiantly difficult to handle with the bit between his teeth and no chance of resolve.
Perhaps this was a conceptual interview to mirror the uncompromising premise of his new record, Metal Machine Music. Perhaps Reed was providing the steely backboard on which to bounce questions off of into the atmosphere, never to be seen or heard again. If it was, he didn’t give the journalists in the room the heads up.
Watch below as Lou Reed loses his cool during an interview in 1975