“It's very difficult to separate Lou Reed the singer/songwriter and Lou
Reed the guitar player, because the two
went hand-in-hand,” says iconic session
guitarist Steve Hunter. “Some of the technical
things he did on guitar were a product
of his songwriting skills and vice versa.
When I worked out his songs, it was obvious
that he used harmony in ways I would
never think of, and that intrigued, excited,
and inspired me. Listen to the chords on
“Perfect Day,” for example. When he composed,
it appears that he let the melody
and chords lead each other, and didn’t care
if the progression fit into a strict key, or
followed any rules of music theory. That
takes a lot of courage. He would hear a
melody, and find chords that worked with
it no matter what the hell they were. If he
went from C to Eb, he didn’t care, as long
as that harmonized the melody the way
he wanted to hear it.
“As a guitar player, people usually
thought he was experimental and abstract,
and I think, to a certain extent, that’s true.
He liked to push boundaries, and, to him,
there was no box to think outside of. He
was already outside of it [laughs]. But, like
most guitarists, he was also obsessed with
finding unique tones. If the sound wasn’t
doing it for him, it would make him a
little cranky. I loved that Lou was like a
child inside an intellectual man’s body.
When a new guitar toy came along that
really excited him, he’d play with it, and
I could see his face light up like a kid’s. I
discovered Pete Cornish pedals while on
the Berlin tour, thanks to Lou. He loved
Pete Cornish pedals, and some were oneoffs
built specifically for him by Pete.
“When I first joined up with the Berlin
tour, they rented an amp for me, and I
didn’t have a particularly good sound with
it. Nothing seemed to click. Suddenly, Lou
said, ‘Well, I have an extra Tone King amp
and an extra Cornish overdrive/distortion.
Let’s try those.’ And as soon as we plugged
all that stuff in, it sounded amazing. He
wasn’t a guy to rule with a hammer, but
he was definitely listening, and he’d make
suggestions if he didn’t like something.
“As a soloist on the Berlin tour, Lou was
exciting, because he liked to make things
new every night. I loved what he did on
‘Rock Minuet,’ because the song’s lyrics
are pretty darn street raw and the solo is
mean, and flowing, and really in your face,
but it sucks you in. Sometimes, he had a
certain framework, and, sometimes, he’d
work without a net. But I don’t think any of
his solos were completely planned out—I
think he went for certain ideas.”
Steve Hunter first played with Lou Reed in
1973 on the much maligned at the time (but
now considered a classic) Berlin, and reprised
his role during Reed’s live-performance version
of the album in 2006.