[Lou Reed] would come into work stoned every day, because he was the king, as I found out, of pills. I could never figure out what he took. Lou was very bright, and he was taking pills that I think doctors didn’t know about. We used to have to pick him up off the floor each day; he had to be taken to the emergency room twice. Nobody would have gone near him but a wild man like me. [Label owner] Cy Leslie would come in and they would go crazy. And I kept saying, “You’ve got to understand, this guy’s special.”
It’s nice when the boss likes you. In Lou Reed’s case, Terry Philips was content to let him get wasted every day as long as he produced. This was no ordinary workplace, after all; it was a “songwriting emergency room” where the goal was to churn out saleable material and do it fast.
I think that in Lou, Philips saw the wildman he wanted to be. As the supervisor, Philips had to be responsible; he was the point of contact with Cy Leslie, who signed the checks. “In order to keep Lou’s pill-taking ass and get him his weekly paycheck and allow him to write,” Philips said, “I had to compromise my — not his — my integrity.” So Philips kept the factory going and did the paperwork while Lou indulged himself.
One of the songs they wrote together for Swingin’ Teen Sounds of Ronnie Dove & Terry Phillips is called “Wild One,” and it tries very hard to live up to the title, with a manufactured party atmosphere and would-be jungle drums high in the mix:
But it is not convincing. I don’t think people really call this guy “the wild one”; I think he would like them to, but no one does. (One thinks of George Costanza trying to get people to call him “T-Bone.”) The real Wild One was probably passed out in a corner.