This album, from 1978,was recorded during May at The Bottom Line in New York and contains ad libs by Reed during and between songs, among them a detailed story of the origin of Walk on the Wild Side, and a rant against rock music critics, particularly Robert Christgau (who said it was “essentially a comedy record. Lenny Bruce is the obvious influence. And I thank Lou for pronouncing my name right.”)
Reed later said, “everybody said I never talk. I was in my home town of New York, so I talked…I thought of even titling it Lou Reed Talks, And Talks, And Talks… but we called it Take No Prisoners because we were doing a job, a phenomenal booking in a tiny hotel in Quebec. All of a sudden this drunk guy sitting alone at the front shouts, ‘LOU!! MAN!! TAKE NO PRIS’NERS, LOU!!’. And then he took his head and smashed it as hard as he could to the drumbeat. And that was only halfway through!”
I was never the biggest Lou Reed fan: sure, I had the first Velvet Underground LP and heard Berlin a couple of times but for the most part I never really clicked with old Lou. So coming into this album I was a little apprehensive; I vaguely remember an old Kerrang! magazine (when it used to be published fortnightly) had a regular article called Strickly For Konnoisseurs (sp) and Mick Wall was praising this as a great album to hear Lou banter, bicker and berate the audience; and this was the first time I heard the phrase ‘toe-fucker’ in relation to the aforementioned Christgau, so that piqued my curiosity in this album but until now I’ve never actively sought out this record (and I have heard Metal Machine Music several times!)
As a casual (read: very, very casual) Lou Reed listener, I liked the ‘songs’ where Lou is berating and being antagonistic towards the audience more than the ‘proper’ songs being played; which is a bastard mix of Mott the Hoople/Bowie/Rocky Horror Picture Show, although I love the heavy bassline halfway through Street Hassle which rouses the song out of its stupor. The songs are OK but appear tired and lame when compared to the long songs were Lou talks. The 16 minute story of Walk On The Wild Side, where the song is played briefly in passing, is thd highlight here as Reed lambasts rock critics, the rock’n’roll lifestyle and all the (true) characters in the song.
It is indulgent, to be honest; 4 of the 10 tracks are over 10 minutes but they are, for me, the best tracks on here (I’ll give Street Hassle a pass for the great bassline). Honestly, if the whole double album was 10 tracks of Lou Reed just talking and venting over music, I’d probably score it higher. As Christgau points out, it is a comedy album and maybe it acted as an inspiration for the likes of Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins to do talking albums.
It’s not for the casual Lou listener, but I do recommend that you listen to it at least once for the humour. If I were going to re-listen to this, it would be for the talking. 6/10
Next time, we travel by bus to Babylon! TTFN!