The Outrageous Lie (Part 2)

by Tobe Damit

Around 1969, Patti became quite involved with the Warhol drag-queen crowd They were part of the same cast in some plays and were all hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, It was around that time that they developed the concept of the Outrageous Lie. The idea was that if you simply lied, you would get caught but if you created an absolutely Outrageous Lie and truly believed it yourself, people would buy it, hook, line and sinker. During a rehearsal, Patti confessed that she had become pregnant at nineteen and as the baby grew inside her, it became impatient and it kicked until WHAM! A leg came right through her stomach wall and was hangin’ out! . ”Like all things that happen, it had a purpose. It was the right time for the Outrageous Lie. Everyone began to think of themselves in mythological proportions.” –From Patti Smith’ by Victor Bockris

Q and A with author Victor Bockris, esteemed chronicler of the New York Underground, about ”Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography” 

Patti Smith (Spanish Edition).
(Click HERE to read the review)
LAN: The most common editions on the market now say: ”Patti Smith:An Unauthorized Biography” by Victor Bockris. The copy I have doesn’t have the word ”Unauthorized” on the cover or anywhere else for that matter, so what’s the story?
Victor Bockris: O.K. I gave you the U.K. edition published in 1998 as opposed to the U.S. edition published in 1999. I prefer the first edition because it has more of a punk sound to it than its U.S. counterpart. I think Smith’s attorney asked us to add unauthorized on the cover. I never cease to be amazed by how little people in the rock business fail to understand the value of a good biography. After all the purpose of biography is to celebrate the subject’s achievements. I know my Keith Richards and Lou Reed biographies did their subjects a lot of good in six to ten countries. Keith was published to coordinate with release of his first solo album. Mine was the first book about Keith and the first to put his songwriting talents on the same level as McCartney and Dylan’s. I always had a hard time reading my books after they were published. So much time and work goes into them yet they seem woefully less than I expected. E.g.  I was surprised when the Smith book got published in four other countries.The simple fact is that I had not stopped writing biographies for more than a couple of weeks since 1983. I was burned out when I started to write the book in 1995 and things got worse end worse over the ensuing years. I should have taken a vacation before I began to research the Smith book,  but I was involved in an expensive marriage among other things. In hindsight I think an author who marries his work and sees his books as his children should not get married. Anyway, if is probably easier for American and Canadian fans to buy the U.S. edition, completed in collaboration with Roberta Bailey, from Amazon, etc. Those determined to get the U.K. edition would have to look for its black cover with Patti’s face partially obscured. Your review serves both books equally well because you really pinned the essence of the book.

 

LAN: Are there differences between the various editions??
Victor: The difference between the books is their length. The U.S. edition is sixty pages longer than the U.K. edition, but I think it’s just that I took longer to say the same thing. If anybody does a comparative reading of the two books I’d be glad to know whether they agree with me or not.
Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography, 1999 U.S. Edition by Victor Bockris with the help of Roberta Bayley
LAN: How would you describe your collaboration/relation with Patti?
Victor: Part of the problem I had with writing about Patti was that despite launching her career in the UK at a great Telegraph Books reading in London and publishing her first book Seventh Heaven, both in 1972, she soon developed a hostile attitude towards me, insisting that I had ripped her off. Telegraph Books sold for $1.00 each, which meant we would have received sixty cents per book if our distributor had ever paid us which of course they didn’t. Meanwhile we sold less than three hundred copies of her book. Even after doing the great interview with her the same year she continued to badmouth me. Patti did one lovely thing when she tried to set me up with her little sister Linda. Maybe it was because I didn’t follow through on it that made me such a bad person in her opinion. Linda was great and very pretty, what was wrong with me? I still haven’t found out!! No, the real problem with Patti was that when people make it out of the New York  underground they either continue to be themselves or they get weirdly arrogant and distant. The more successful Patti was the more arrogant, less likable and less truthful she became. On top of that I betrayed my calling by ignoring in my book a lot of nasty stuff she was involved in for fear it would upset her children, who had recently had to contend with their father’s death.  In short, what should have been the most fun book to write, since we came out of the same world, quickly turned into a nightmare. It is only now when I am looking at all my books as part of one work that I recognize the value and place of this book. And I intend to look more deeply into it.
Patti and her sister Linda, at a Saturday afternoon party hosted by Terry Ork in 1971 (photo by Gerard Malanga)
LAN: Do you feel that because of her huge literary background that maybe she is responsable for transmitting ideas and concepts from the Beat Generation, making that connexion with the Punk movement?
Victor: Patti is definitely the cross over figure between the Beats, the Warhol school/Dylan etc and the Punks. My book Beat Punks was an attempt to draw some connections between these three generations. In fact, the focus of all my work now is to trace the development of the Beat Punk Generation that ran through the last great art movement to come out of New York in the seventies and early eighties.
”Lou was a very special poet – a New York writer in the way that Walt Whitman was a New York poet. One thing I got from Lou, that never went away, was the process of performing live over a beat, improvising poetry, how he moved over three chords for 14 minutes. That was a revelation to me.”-Patti in Rolling Stone
LAN: Do you think she had a special role in music because of that?
Victor: Patti’s roll in music may still need to be properly judged. On the one hand, she was in the front lines of punk. On the other, since she never really took any social part in New York punk’s scene,  holding herself above us, New York punk is not really her home. Her self-image as a Paul Revere – Field Marshal off Rock figure puts her in a larger though somewhat lonely category. She may best be seen as a figure who dances between the cracks from Dylan/The Byrds-Yardbirds through the punk seventies, who just has not yet crawled out on the other side of it. I can see a whole other golden period for Patti if she figured out a way to take her whole crew of Saints, from Marianne Faithful and Rimbaud to Blaise Cendrars and Anita Pallenberg (R.I.P) etc, etc, on the road. She needs a family of visionary artists to protect her from the ancient crone syndrome that comes to those who have been careless with their friends.
Patti and Bob Dylan Bob Dylan, Rolling Thunder Revue tour, 1975. Photo by Ken Regan.
LAN: Apart of the fact the she adored her husband Fred ”Sonic” Smith, do you think that the MC5 had any kind of influence on Patti’s music. Was she a fan of the MC5?
Victor: Most of us embraced the MC5 as punk pioneers. There’s no question when Patti married Fred she foresaw a John and Yoko type of collaborative musical scene. They were going to make albums, tour etc. But like so many plans made by couples in the early days of their romance, reality robbed her of those victories.

 

LAN: In England, May 1976, Patti played 2 dates at the Roundhouse,the next night, Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols really dissed Patti’s performances, deeming them hippies. Patti herself felt that it was over. Looking back, do you think this was some kind of a turning point?
Victor:  It was not so much Patti as it was the Patti Smith Band’s album, Horses, that rang the call of the new. Horses is it. A great album, a game changer, still sounds fresh, their most valid contribution to the culture. The British punk scene was not as art oriented or romantic as its New York counterpart. Rotten was the #1 punk figure, whose voice and lyrics cut through everything to the hard-core of reality. His criticism of Patti also came out of a long history of English resentment of Americans and their baggage. I’m sure Patti had experienced the hippie slice of life on wonder bread in the summer of love, but she was more influenced by the Velvet Underground than The Big Balloon Band. John was just throwing darts.
The Patti Smith Group, Copenhagen, Denmark, May 1976. (L-R) Lenny Kaye, Richard Sohl, Patti Smith, Ivan Kral and Jay Dee Daugherty.
LAN: Do you think the lack of commercial viability of punk can be overcome?
Victor: I think it was overcome by Nirvana. Even the Mighty Ramones were superstars in Japan and South America. The main thing about the punks is that like the Beats they never faded away. Punk will never die, but I don’t know a lot of people who learned how to live from disco music. Punk defies commercialism, Punk just is. Everyone who cares passionately about what they do and will never give up is a punk.
The Ramones on stage in the Netherlands, 1977. L-R: Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone.
LAN: What would be YOUR ”Outrageous Lie”?
Victor:  That I am just getting started, that you haven’t seen anything yet, that I’m a gift to the women of this world.

 

LAN: You never give up don’t you, punk!  I can’t wait to see what you have been up to!! Thanks so much for your time!!
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Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie

INTERVIEW WITH VICTOR AUTHOR EDITOR DESIGNER SITUATIONIST BOCKRIS

Click to read my review!

Intro: The first thing I would say about Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie is that it was a book of photographs by the band’s leader and, in collaboration with Debbie Harry, premiere song writer, Chris Stein. Stein was no fly by night paparazzi, by the time he met Debbie in 1972 he had already studied depth and perception photography at Cooper Union and started collecting photographs. While she was still singing with the female trio The Stilettoes, he was making inroads into punk  by quitting his glitter band and letting the first Ramones live in his Lower East Side apartment. Meanwhile,  Chris moved into Debbie’s Thompson Street pad and started playing with The Stilettoes. Soon thereafter he began contributing pictures of Blondie to Punk Magazine. By the time I met them on the night of the great New York Blackout in July 1977, I was developing a role as the only writer who went  back and forth between The Beat Writers, Andy Warhol and the New York Punk bands, and wanted to write about all of them as a new generation.  We got a wonderful editor in Fred Jordan, who had been one of the first Grove Press editors and was now running the U.S. branch of the famous British publisher, Methuen.

Across the universe of writing and designing the book both publisher and authors went through significant changes. During May 1982 when the book was released almost simultaneously in New York and London, Methuen was no more and Blondie had shifted down through changes which included Harry’s first solo album Koo Koo. We were now with Fred Jordan Books in New York distributed by Dell and Hamish Hamilton in London, editor Roger Houghton. Both editions of the book were launched at lavish openings of Stein’s photographs at the Daniel Wolf Gallery in New York and David Dawson’s B2 Gallery in London. Despite this focus on Stein’s fine set of pictures, Jordan’s ability to sell the book to Hamilton for a $50,000 advance was primarily due to Debbie Harry’ autobiographical text, written in collaboration with myself and Chris. However, what had started as a labour of love ended on a negative note when Bondies’ manager coerced the world right’s back from Jordan but never got deals for the four more foreign editions we could have had in Germany. Italy, Holland and Japan. Agents can make all the difference in a case like this, but we had no one to turn to. For me the subsequent loss of revenue without discussion turned the successful collaboration into a route. The book sold well in the U.K. but virtually disappeared in the States. At first Chris and Debbie took quantities of the book on the road, selling them at their concerts until the band broke up a year later in 1983. We would have to wait for another thirteen years before the three of us would have the opportunity to launch Making Tracks again.   -Victor Bockris

LAN: Debbie seemed to be part of the scene for a very long time, maybe not as an artist at first but I’m curious to know when was the very first time you met her.

Victor Bockris: Yeah Debbie was a Slum Goddess of The Lower East Side in the late sixties. She began to get it together around the New York Dolls in the early Seventies. Blondie had their first #1 in Australia with In The Flesh in 1977. I first met Debbie and Chris at the apartment of a photographer Christopher Makos 227 Waverley Place on the night of the great New York Blackout, July 13. The room was pitch black so I could not see her, but I recognized her the minute we met. Next thing I knew I was in the back of the Frontiersman’s van with Debbie, Chris Stein and Liz Derringer on the way to Makos opening for his White Trash book. In an appropriation of Warhol’s cover of the Rolling Stones raunchy Sticky Fingers, Makos put a shot of Debbie’s crotch in a tight black miniskirt on the cover of his White Trash book. I made my entry into this scene wearing a tiger skin bikini in the back pages of Makos catalogue of trash.

Sticky Fingers album cover, showing a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch with the visible outline of a medium-sized penis; the cover of the original (vinyl LP) release featured a working zipper and perforations around the belt buckle that opened to reveal a sub-cover image of cotton briefs. Behind the zipper the white briefs were seemingly rubber stamped in gold with the stylized name of American pop artist Andy Warhol, below which read “THIS PHOTOGRAPH MAY NOT BE—ETC.
Christopher Makos, White Trash, 1977 · Cover back and front

LAN: What were you first impressions?

Victor Bockris: I had already seen Blondie perform at CBGB’s with a bunch of people from the Factory in 1975 and 76. Everybody liked her but Debbie was still so lacking in confidence she was not carrying her performances to completion. By the blackout meeting she had grown stronger. It was such a smooth part of my 1977 transformation, my impressions of Debbie and her partner Chris Stein were seamless. I felt very much a part of the scene for the first time since 1974, hanging out with Debbie and Chris extended my territory. Soon I was taking them to meet my people as they introduced me to theirs. Threads of Punk wove together with Beat and Warhol threads. The Beat Punk Generation was beginning to get up and walk.

Book Cover of Beat Punks by Victor Bockris. Click on it!

LAN: What were the events leading to your involvement in the writing of Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie.

Victor Bockris: They had started to talk to me about Chris Stein’s photographs at the time I was writing With William Burroughs. In fact they were in the Burroughs book. Working on Tracks began with a recording of a Dinner with Andy Warhol. It took me a long time to realize all we needed for the text was Debbie’s account of the Blondie Story to compliment Chris’ photographs of the same. I wrote a proposal and we soon got an exciting offer from Fred Jordan at Methuen in New York. This thrilled me because Jordan was one of the three men who started Grove Press, which published many of the ground breaking books of the 1960s. And Methuen was a British publisher with a long list of distinguished authors including Oscar Wilde. I was looking to connect the Beats, Warhol and the Punks so this was right my street.

LAN: How would you define what was your role in the writing of Making Tacks/The Rise of Blondie?

Victor Bockris: They looked to me like a producer, they were trying to figure out how to put books together. They thought I knew. I look back on my collaboration with Debbie and Chris as among the best in my career. But I’m not so impressed by my contribution. At first at my suggestion we took Makos on board as art designer, but Makos treated Chris in a ridiculous way. He over charged him to print up some pictures doing a lousy job that made them look bad. After Debbie fired him over the phone I put together a mock-up the book all three of us liked. That was when we really started collaborating on the book. I managed to carve a good text out of many tapes with Debbie then Debbie and Chris. When we got through that Debbie went to Toronto to film Videodrome. Chris and I stayed in New York and came up with an excellent design for all the book’s interior pages. I cherish my memories of working with them individually and together.

The French Version of Videodrome (1983) Movie Poster featuring Deborah Harry.

LAN: A recorded conversation between you, Debbie and Chris, used as the prologue raised many questions in my mind. Could you explain why you chose to use this conversation as a prologue?

Victor Bockris: I thought it caught the three-way humor that kept the book from taking itself too seriously.

LAN: In your opinion is Blondie linked to the empowerment of women, a movement that most probably spurred the career of artists like the Runaways, Siouxie Sioux, Chrissie Hynde and many others?

Victor Bockris: Debbie had an enormous influence on opening the pop – rock scene for women. Madonna comes out of Debbie. There’s a great color photo in the book of Debbie with Chrissie Hynde, Siouxie Sioux and others that says it all. Blondie was good to her friends, the band was good to the scene, it helped spread reggae and rap among others things. Debbie is undoubtedly a great heroine of the counterculture, particularly the downtown punk scene and beat punk scenes of the high seventies. One reason I wanted to work on a book with her was to extend her talents into other fields. I cannot believe she has not written one of the great biographies of her times. She has a huge story to tell. Maybe I should call her up.

Chrissie Hynde, Pauline Black of Selector, Debbie, Poly Styrene, Viv from The Slits and Siouxie Banshee by © Chris Stein.

LAN:  You most definitely should! Why do you think Blondie got a better reception at an international level than many other bands from New York?

Victor Bockris: Blondie’s international success in the 1970s and today comes from the vision to go on a world tour before they were a world band. Their early success in Australia came about because they went there. Secondly their music and songs were easy to translate, and thirdly because Debbie had by far the most sellable image and she and Chris worked endlessly touring radio stations to connect with DJs. Most partnerships in rock n roll are between men. Debbie and Chris may be the most successful long-term male/female collaboration in the business. They are really good people.

LAN: How was the book received when it was published?

Victor Bockris: The book was poorly published in the U.S. But Fred Jordan got us a $50,000 advance in the U.K. which was unbelievably great and Hamish Hamilton in London, with editor Roger Houghton, did a fine job. However, when Blondie’s manager insisted Jordan return the world rights thus cutting off any further foreign publications the book was virtually but not completely dead. I had depended on the book having at least five foreign deals so I was very disappointed. Rock’n’roll is a multileveled business. At the time they are completing a new album and planning a huge world tour. The power of their upcoming world tour took them out of my orbit. The next time I saw Debbie and Chris was backstage in Philadelphia that August were they played in front of 50,000 people and Chris Stein looked like a ghost in a Fellini movie. Making Tracks got a lot of notices in the press, but no serious reviews. I think part of the reason was that it was really a book of photographs by Chris Stein but it was sold as the autobiography of Debbie Harry. However it did have lasting influences on many people who read it and it would find a longer life in the following decade. And again now.

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie watch Godzilla in their apartment

LAN: Do you know why it is that, when Blondie co-founders Chris Stein and Debbie Harry reformed the group in 1997 for Blondie Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, they “forgot” to invite bassist Nigel Harrison or guitarist Frank Infante, leading to the Hall of Fame incident that left a lot of people speechless and the bad blood never quite trickled away? 

Victor: Infante and Harrison had sued them or were in process of suing them. Don’t forget Debbie and Chris were left to deal with all the band’s post 83 breakup fallout including financial on their own. When they reformed the band in second half 1990s they were under no obligation so far as I know to take anybody on, except Clem. When they first hit big instead of being grateful to Chris and Debbie for writing the hits and working 75% harder than the rest of the band did in their heyday everybody got incredibly paranoid and there was a lot of aggressive infighting, which messed up he music and wasted their energies. Ex band members  often sue because lawyers tell them they can get some free money. I’m glad Debbie did what she did, she shouldn’t have had to go through that on Blondie’s inauguration into the ROCK N ROLL HALL OF FAME.

Debbie and Anya Phillips in “The Legend of Nick Detroit”, PUNK Magazine ©Artwork By John Halstrom and Bruce Carlton

LAN: What is the main difference between Blondie the band, and Debbie Harry? In other words, what was the main contribution Chris Stein brought to the table?

Victor: Chris Stein and Debbie Harry’s forty-five year collaboration on making music and running Blondie stands out among the greatest male-female collaboration of all time. It has gone through many phases, but to answer your question, in its first stages between 1972-1975 Debbie and Chris equally transformed each other by making music making love and banging heads. They both came from backgrounds that left them creatively intact but insecure in the delivery. They soon became a part of the CBGB’s scene, but throughout the years the tight unit they forged in the cauldron of New York’s downtown scene from Watergate to Drop Dead New York  in the ragged summer of 75 would always remain the single strength beating at the heart of Blondie.

Debbie Harry & Chris Stein, NYC, 1978 by ©Bob Gruen

LAN: Thank you so much for your precious time I know you are very busy right now and I wish you the very best, hoping that with Blondie’s new release of ”Pollinator’‘, people will feel the urge to read Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie  as an autobiography or a photo album, either way ,it still is a wonderful book that has aged very well.

Transformer/Interview with Victor Bockris

by Tobe Damit
by Tobe Damit

After I posted a very extensive review of Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story (2014 updated edition) here in Loud Alien Noize under the title ”The Beauty of the Beast”. I felt the need to ask the author, the well known punk-era writer,   Victor Bockris about certain aspects of the biography and his relationship with Lou. He was kind enough to answer them, for your pleasure as well as mine.

LAN: This is a really in-depth biography, I have read several of your books and never before have you gone so deep into someone’s psyche. What is it about Lou Reed?

Victor Bockris: Transformer is the result of a close friendship with Lou between 1974-1979. This is from Rock’n’Roll Animal to The Bells. A solo workaholic rock star such as Lou is by definition a lonely guy. When I started hanging out with him he was living with a long time girlfriend he had known since 1966 at the Factory. Barbara Hodes had gone to Long Island and helped pull him out of his post Velvet’ slump, also offering him a nest in Manhattan. The first night Andrew Wylie and I went out drinking with Lou in fall 1974 the three of us were sitting around a table drinking when he suddenly said, “I haven’t felt this happy in years!” I was stunned. The point is Lou was looking for people he could really talk to. He wanted to emote about his life. No bullshit. We were the same way. And once Lou got a friend he wanted that friend to be available to him at any time. We called ourselves Bockris-Wylie. The first thing Lou did was break us up. Then he developed separate relations with both of us. All my time with Lou was spent in his apartment or mine talking about his problems or mine. He gave me much good advice I rely on to this day. Lou opened his psyche to me and that is why I could write about him so accurately. He once gave me a piece of paper on which he had written “From Lou#3 to Lou#8 ‘Hi!’” Writing from a psychological angle was the only way to start a biography of Lou Reed.

Lou Reed and Barbara Hodes at The Bottom Line, NYC. February 12, 1974. © Bob Gruen
Lou Reed & Barbara Hodes,The Bottom Line,NYC,1974©Bob Gruen

LAN:How would you describe the first impression you got from Loud Reed the first time you saw him in person?  

Victor Bockris: I first met Lou in 1974 shortly after interviewing William Burroughs, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. I did not know that much about him so Bockris-Wylie met him on equal grounds, which probably helped. He was so lovely sweet kind and funny we got into a really cool conversation. I started telling him looked he looked like Frank Sinatra ands he came right back about Sinatra laying down Heroin at the Sands with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Then right in front of my eyes Lou transformed into the young Frank. It was so startling I glimpsed something dark in him. I almost fainted and ran to the bathroom trying not to throw up. The whole thing was so connected by the end of the interview he invited us to have dinner with him. Mick Jagger had called in the middle of it and we were committed to sending him a re-edited transcript the following day. So we had to decline. Later in the week we went out for that drink in Answer #1.

photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by Elsa Dorfman
Photo of Victor Bockris and Andrew Wylie by© Elsa Dorfman

LAN: During the years you were the closest to him, What would you say his state of mind was and what seemed to be his main concerns?

Victor Bockris: Lou’s state of mind changed a lot during the five years I knew him. When he started living with Rachel he felt a lot more secure and protected, but he was suing his manager and most of his royalties were in escrow. For a man with an international rep touring the world he was quite poor. Of course Metal Machine Music had blown a hole in his fan base and pissed off a lot of people, but one of Lou’s greatest strengths was his courage to do it ”His Way”. There was also a truly perverse side to Lou that was his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. His greatest concern was making music that rocked but also dug deep into his psyche, like Kill Your Sons. It was amazingly moving to see Lou Reed on stage in those days singing into a storm of abuse – “It’s your life cocksucker Lou REEED ain’t no kind of human being!” – the poor bastard – but the Glory of Love now might just see you through. He was as great as Rimbaud. That was Lou. He was so beautiful he could make you cry.

LAN: At what point did you feel the need to write his biography? How did it happen?

Victor Bockris: In the summer of 1982 Andrew Wylie suggested I write a biography of Andy Warhol, saying he could get me an advance of $100,000. There was a limitation on who I could write about because I had to have spent some time with my subject. From thereon we came up with Keith Richards. In 1992 after I completed the Richards biography Lou Reed was the only big international star I knew well enough to write about. In each case Andrew got me the $100,000 advance. By the time we signed the Lou Reed contract in 1992 my books were being published in six to twelve countries, so were able to sell foreign rights to the Reed book before it was finished.

LAN: Did Lou knew you were writing his bio?

Victor Bockris: He did. In fact I heard that Keith Richards visited Lou shortly after we informed Lou I was going to write his biography. According to a witness Lou cried “I’m next – why me?” And they both cracked up. Lou had always complimented me on magazine articles I’d written about him. I also heard he appreciated my book Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story. The odd thing is that Lou could never have had the career he had without the vast number of highly appreciative well written articles about him from 1972 until his death in 2013, yet he always said he despised rock writers. Actually he befriended number of them across those forty years. I suppose if you are a star you can’t go round saying great book about me. It would not be cool.

Lou Reed, Denmark, May 16th, 1974 Credit: Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty
Lou Reed Live,Denmark,May 16th,1974©Jorgen/Angel/Redferns/Getty

LAN: What was the first time and circumstances you saw him performing on stage? 

Victor Bockris: At the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in 1974. It seats around 4,000 and it was packed. As I indicated in Question 3 in those early years Lou’s concerts were like shock rallies lit by Andy Warhol’s suggestion Lou used the bright white light Albert Speer employed for Hitler’s rallies at Nuremberg. Lou Reed’s hardcore audiences had a love-hate relationship with him on stage, which perfectly reflected his persona and lyrics. As a punk rocker Lou’s art was based on contradictions. Everywhere he went he was offering himself as a conduit for the confused emotions of outsiders. He was their priest.

9 October 1974 at the Felt Forum, New York City
Lou Reed Live at the Felt Forum, NYC, October 1974.

LAN: You set up quite a few meetings between artists and you arranged for Lou Reed to meet up with Burroughs, I bet you were very nervous about it. Where you personally satisfied with the outcome? 

Victor Bockris: The 29 minute conversation between Burroughs and Reed I tape-recorded in August 1979 was one of the best pieces I have ever done. We arrived over an hour late, but when we got there we found William having cocktails with four friends. After going round the table putting everybody down, Lou asked Bill questions like did you have to sleep with your publisher to get your books published and did you cut off your toe to avoid the draft? Bill’s guest froze in horror, but he thought Lou was funny and hip. When Lou said, “We who play cannot stay,” Bill did something I‘d never seen him do before, he walked Lou down the stairs and out into the street. When Lou asked Bill, “Can we get together for a quiet dinner?” Bill agreed. However when I said “We should do that,” Lou replied, “What’s this we? I just wanted to get together with Mr. Burroughs.”
When I got back upstairs into the Bunker and tested my tape all I could hear was a buzzing noise like an out take from Metal Machine Music, under which was the faint rumble of voices. I immediately sat down and wrote the whole thing out verbatim from memory. Like I said, it was a memorable experience.

Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs' Naked Lunch
Lou proudly exhibiting Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

LAN: I feel that this is the best biography you have ever written. How do you personally feel about Transformer??

Victor Bockris: ”Transformer: The Lou Reed Story” was the third in a trilogy of biographies written one after the other with but a few weeks break between them. I did feel Transformer benefited from my experiences writing the Warhol and Richards books. It was also more of a story and had a good sense of humor running through it. I had a more emotionally close relationship with Lou than the others. So yes, it is in some sense the best written. But the Warhol biography is a better book because it deals with a much more significant figure. Of course I updated the Lou Reed book in 2014 with Transformer: The Complete Lou Reed Story. So far it remains the most accurate and in-depth account of Lou’s life. I cannot imagine how anybody could beat it.

LAN: If you could say one last thing to Lou right now, What would it be?

Victor Bockris: His death awoke me from the dream of life. His relationship with Laurie Anderson brought out the best in him. And his last album Lulu may well be the best thing he ever did. It was also hugely successful reaching 36 on the Billboard charts and selling over 100,000 copies in it’s first weeks of release in Europe, going into the top ten in seven nations. I was amazed by the number of critics who said it was a disaster, just like the critics had called Berlin a disaster in 1973. WAKE THE FUCK UP!

Lou Reed & Metallica
Lou Reed & Metallica

LAN: What are you up to now? Should we be expecting a new book in a near future?

Victor Bockris: So far this year my agent Helen Donlon has sold ”The Burroughs-Warhol Connection” in Korea and ”Warhol: The Biography” in Russia, both new countries for my books. We also have the film about Andy Warhol starring Jared Leto based on my book to look forward to. Meanwhile I am obsessed with finishing a memoir about my life as a writer. My lips are zipped on that one.

LAN: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that you made time for this interview! It’s always so interesting to know a little more about the circumstances and facts surrounding the writing of a book. It’s always delightful to hear your stories! I cannot wait to hear about your memoir! Hopefully I will finally be able to read more about your life as a writer! This should be totally and utterly entertaining!!

Victor Bockris: THANK YOU TOBE FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO REVISIT LOU REED, WHO IS STILL AMONG THE TOP FIVE ARTIST IN MY MIND. IT WILL ALWAYS GIVE ME IMMENSE PLEASURE TO LISTEN TO HIM SING. I wish somebody would take the time to look into Lou’s oft repeated claim that each of his albums was a chapter of his great electric novel. Oh yeah, the ace photographer Bob Gruen used to live above an apartment occupied solely by Lou Reed’s guitars and the man whose job it was to tune them. Bob said the sound of a hundred guitars being tuned never stopped, and sometimes they throbbed with such intensity the floor of his pad would shake and tremble.

Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
Victor Bockris in his room at the Chelsea Hotel, 2004 Photo© Keith Green
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