“We Had A Ball With That”
Lou Reed, Record Producer? NELSON SLATER’s Wild Angel revealed another side of rock’s Mr Grumpy.
If there is one truly unsung gem in Lou Reed’s oeuvre, it may reside on Wild Angel, recorded by Reed’s Syracuse college pal Nelson Slater, produced by Reed himself, and released by RCA in 1976. Decorated with a cover design and Mick Rock photo that announced something sick’n’sleazy inside – which this really wasn’t – the album featured Reed and his Coney Island Baby-era band providing a sympathetic backing to Slater’s disarmingly subtle songwriting.
“Ahh,” Reed told your writer in 1980. “I loved it, I really loved it. Given the time and the money that we had, there are a couple of songs on there…”
Mainly, he was talking about We, the six-minute track buried on the album’s second side that features Reed as player, arranger, backing vocalist and surprisingly adept craftsman.
“That was an experiment that worked,” Reed recalled. “In the mix every three seconds, we would fade something out – not fade it out, click it out, and put something else in. All through the record there’s three things that are always there – the hi-hat, his voice and the bass. Then everything else – the two guitars, the piano, the rest of the drums, come in and out. And with that incredibly long classic Phil Spector paradiddle that introduces the whole thing – as it ended we went whoom and hit all the buttons. You can’t imagine what it was like to see the speakers.
“We had a ball with that,” Reed told me that day. “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done, Nelson’s thing.”
He paused, then reflexively responded: “I think we sold six copies.”
As told to Dave DiMartino