In an extract from his new biography, rock writer Anthony DeCurtis reflects on the icon he knew personally and delves into the making of his 1973 solo album Berlin and his encounter with Czech president – and fan – Václav Havel

“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.

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