Un lungo, toccante ricordo scritto da Moe Tucker sulle pagine del Guardian e rivolto al suo fraterno compagno scomparso recentemente. Tra queste righe una storia unica ed irripetibile. Una storia d’altri tempi.
I first met Lou when he came by one day to see my brother. They were friends from college and he came by to pick up my brother around Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas. That was in the early 60s. A long time ago. A different time. A different world. I think we said hello, and I knew from my brother that he was into music, but he didn’t make that big an impression. Lou and Sterling [Morrison] met through my brother. They were all at Syracuse together, and that’s when the two of them started to play together. I got involved in their group almost by accident because the original drummer left just before a gig in New York in 1965 and they needed a new drummer real fast. Sterling said, “Oh, Tucker’s sister plays drums.” I lived way out on Long Island and they came out there from the city to see if I could keep a beat. That’s how it happened. I was working as a data puncher for IBM and playing drums at night in a band that a brother of one of my girlfriends had formed. I was a pop fan, the Beatles and the Stones and all that 60s stuff, and suddenly I was playing this really avant-garde stuff in a group called the Velvet Underground. I had no grounding in the experimental stuff that John [Cale] loved, so it was quite a leap.
The first gig I played was the first gig as the Velvet Underground. ]Summit high school New Jersey, 11 December 1965] We played three songs [There She Goes Again, Venus in Furs and Heroin]. A lot of people were bewildered. A lot of people left. I think Lou kind of liked that. Then we played Cafe Bizarre in New York and the guy who owned it didn’t want the drums as they were too loud, so I played tambourine. I like the sound of the tambourine so that was fine. That’s where Barbara Rubin introduced us to Andy (Warhol). It was a whole different world to the one I knew, especially at the Factory with the Warhol crowd, but it was really exciting and a lot of fun. I wasn’t scared or overwhelmed, I was just excited. Sterling was a kind of comforting presence. I’d known him since I was 11. John and Lou were just so full of ideas. I was super-impressed – the drones, the lyrics, the noise, the whole way they approached music was just new and exciting, and there was a pop imagination in there, too.
Lou was a huge pop fan. He had this extraordinary record collection: old 45s of 1950s rock’n’roll and doo-wop by singers I had never heard of. I remember one night we went back to his place in the Village and he played all these amazing singles on his little mono record player. He’d say: “Listen to the drum sound on this one” or “Check out this little guitar part”. It was all about the detail. He absorbed so much detail and put it into the Velvets. He always wanted us to sound as close to a live gig as we could in the studio. We never sat around and discussed what we were going to do or what our direction was going to be, we just made music and it was music that nobody else was making, and a lot of people at that time didn’t want to hear it. It wasn’t peace and love, that’s for sure. It wasn’t so much us against the world; it was us against San Francisco. The hippies out there hated us and we didn’t like them too much either. We played out there once at the Fillmore West. The promoter, Bill Graham, booked us for some reason. Maybe he wanted to check out Andy’s light show. As we were going onstage, he said, “I hope you fuckers bomb.” I guess we scared him. Andy’s light shows were so much more radical than the hippy light shows.
Lou had a reputation, for sure. He was tough and he could be grumpy and bitchy, but I’ve come to realise that his bitchiness came out when there was incompetence about. Didn’t matter if it was a waiter or a record producer, he’d rip someone apart if things weren’t up to scratch. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. That’s just the way he was, but he was also incredibly encouraging and generous. He was a good friend through everything. We had this brother-sister type relationship in the group, and it lasted long after the group split. We would always exchange Christmas cards, Valentine cards. It was one of those friendships where it didn’t matter if you didn’t see each other a lot. We’d meet up after two years or five years and it would be like we’d seen each other last week. As you get older, you come to realise that that kind of friendship is rare, so I miss him a hell of a lot. It’s just dawning on me that he’s not out there any more. When Sterling died, it sucked, but It was expected. With Lou, I had no idea how ill he was. I knew he’d had the liver transplant and he probably wouldn’t be his old self, but I really wasn’t prepared for the news. It was hard. It is hard. We were on an adventure back then and it took the world a while to catch up with what we were doing. It was word of mouth because you could not get the records outside of New York. I think that was a good thing, too, because we didn’t spend all the royalty cheques when we were young and foolish. (Laughs). We had a lot of fun, and a lot of fun upsetting people. We used to joke that we knew how good the gig was by the number of people who left the room. I think now that they were perfect times in a way. We split when we should have, and we left behind just a handful of great albums. It wasn’t a career. We didn’t keep going on and on like a lot of groups, but we influenced a lot of people.
Now Andy’s gone, Sterling’s gone, Nico’s gone and Lou’s gone. It feels strange. I miss them all, but I really miss Lou. He was a great songwriter who pushed the boundaries in terms of what he was writing about, but more importantly, he was a good and loyal friend. It doesn’t seem right that I won’t be sending him a Christmas card.