People always say to me, ‘Why don’t you get along with critics?’” Lou Reed told me one night in 2012. “I tell them, ‘I get along fine with Anthony DeCurtis.’ Shuts them right up.” We were sitting in the dining room of the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania, where I teach creative writing. I’d brought Lou down to do an interview with me in front of 50 or so invited guests and to have dinner with a dozen students, faculty members, musicians, and local media luminaries. As with so many things with Lou, it was touch and go until the very end.
I always felt that one of the reasons Lou and I got along well was that we met socially before we ever met as artist and critic. In June of 1995, I got stuck at the airport in Cleveland, where I had gone to cover the concert celebrating the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My flight back to New York was delayed for hours, and I was settling in for the wait when I ran into a record company friend, who introduced me to Lou and Laurie [Anderson, musician and Reed’s partner]. There’s nothing like an interminable flight delay to grease the gears of socialisation.
“You reviewed New York for Rolling Stone, right?” Reed asked, referring to his classic 1989 album.
“How many stars did you give it?”
“Shoulda been five,” he said. But he was smiling. The ice had been broken
continued in The Guardian
I found a quiet table and as I began to soak up some of the afternoon’s beer with something stodgy, a small group of men joined me at the table. They seemed quite unassuming and proceeded to eat with precision, perhaps quasi-mechanical efficiency, and good manners.
The German accents and the braces that they all wore suddenly hit home: “My God! I’m sitting at the same table as Kraftwerk!” No glamour, no massive entourage and hardly a word said. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, the highlight was when one of them had extra pudding.
The best No 1 records: Kraftwerk – The Model.
Being ahead of their time was both a blessing and a curse for Kraftwerk. It meant that many of their greatest moments were properly appreciated only years after they first appeared. Hence, when they heralded the appearance of 1981’s Computer World album with the release of Computer Love, the song’s lyrics – about finding romance through the impassive interface of a flickering screen – seemed like something of a novelty. Only hindsight allows us to acknowledge their prescience fully. The same prescience was also a key factor in Computer World being upstaged by its B-side. Though it originally appeared on 1978’s The Man Machine, The Model.
Metallica, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots have performed a classroom jam version of ‘Enter Sandman’, the 1991 metal anthem.
In 2010, Kody [Nielson] and I spent six days on the road as his support act for his New Zealand tour. At the first show at Vector Arena, Leonard came out to meet us before we went on and watched side of stage. Anyone who’s ever played support for a big act knows that this seldom happens, but this seemed less to do with us and more about his basic respect for people around him, how this would simply be the right thing to do as a host.
Weeks earlier we had booked flights to get to the other shows around the country, but we never ended up using them, because after the first night we were invited to travel with him on his chartered plane. This was, of course, uncommon and very special. I got to have a handful of conversations with Leonard, and all I can say is that he was every bit as present, gracious and cool as you might imagine.
I cried a couple of times hearing the news of his death. It was a special honour to have met him. I think it’s fair to say that he elevated the art of popular songwriting as high as it could go; his lyric writing sets the bar. I couldn’t possibly say what my favourite Leonard Cohen song is, there are too many, but to go out on ‘You Want It Darker’ is quite the master stroke.