"Don't you EVER say that to me!" Lou Reed and David Bowie once had a fist-fight in a London restaurant and it got very, very ugly

Lou Reed and David Bowie
(Image credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

'Lou is batting David about the top of his head. David cowers; Lou looks like an irate father boxing the ears of a particularly recalcitrant child for pissing in his slippers. He gets in a few more whacks before the minders haul him away from Bowie. He will not calm down. He tussles and struggles, tries to launch himself again at Bowie. The silence that follows is ghastly.'

It's the evening of April 10, 1979, and the Chelsea Rendezvous restaurant on Sydney Street in South Kensington is a mess, with tables overturned, chairs strewn around the room, smashed plant pots spilling soil onto the carpet, and food, cutlery, fine china and broken glass everywhere.

And the night had started so well.

Earlier that evening, Lou Reed had performed at a sold out Hammersmith Odeon on the penultimate date of a 13-date European tour teasing the imminent arrival of his ninth solo studio album The Bells, and with a day off before the tour's closing night at Dublin's National Stadium on April 12, the former Velvet Underground man had extended an invitation to a couple of prominent music writers to join him and his old pal David Bowie for a post-show dinner. And all seemed to be going swimmingly, right up until the moment where Reed started raining punches upon Bowie's head.

"Don't you ever say that to me!" former Melody Maker editor Allan Jones, an eyewitness to the unseemly brouhaha, recalls Reed screaming. "Don't you EVER fucking say that to me!"

After a few minutes, the pair were dragged apart: they embraced, carried on drinking and everyone thought that was that. Not so. A few minutes later Reed launched himself at Bowie once more, as described above by Jones. This time Jones is escorted out of the restaurant as concerned friends huddle around Bowie with a collective WTF.

"Lou seemed very upset," Allan Jones notes, while offering his sympathies to Bowie. "I was just wondering what happened...."

Bowie, it seems, is not in the mood to chat. He is, however, in the mood for another scrap, as he grabs the writer by the lapels and begins shaking him violently.

"Fuck off," he shouts. "If you want to know what happened you'll have to ask Lou Reed. Don't bother me with your fucking questions. Ask fucking Lou. He knows what fucking happened. He'll tell you... Just fuck off."

Bowie then storms off, hurling chairs hither and thither, kicking over plants, and generally Making An Exit.

"I think you've upset the Thin White Duke," another journalist tells Jones,

"I think perhaps I have."

No-one ever revealed what the fight was about. But Bowie and Reed were all friends again before too long. Presumably Bowie never said that - whatever that was - again.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.