Artist: Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side ~ Lou Reed

Lou Reed was an American rock musician best known as the guitarist, vocalist and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground as well as a successful solo artist whose career has spanned several decades. The Velvet Underground gained little mainstream attention during their career, but became one of the most influential of their era.  As the Velvet Underground’s main songwriter, Reed wrote about subjects of personal experience that rarely had been examined so openly in rock and roll, including a variety of sexual topics and drug culture. As a guitarist, he was a pioneer of many guitar effects including distortion, high volume feedback, and nonstandard tunings.

Lou Reed was born into a Jewish family at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn and grew up in Freeport, New York.

Having learned to play the guitar from the radio, he developed an early interest in rock and roll and rhythm and blues, and during high school played in a number of bands. His first recording was as a member of a doo wop-style group called The Shades.

Reed received electroconvulsive therapy in his teen years to “cure” homosexual behavior; he wrote about the experience in his 1974 song, “Kill Your Sons”. In an interview, Reed said of the experience:

“They put the thing down your throat so you don’t swallow your tongue, and they put electrodes on your head. That’s what was recommended in Rockland County to discourage homosexual feelings. The effect is that you lose your memory and become a vegetable. You can’t read a book because you get to page 17 and have to go right back to page one again.”

Reed began attending Syracuse University, studying journalism, film directing and creative writing before finding his true calling when he began hosting a late-night radio program on WAER called “Excursions On A Wobbly Rail”. Named after a song by pianist Cecil Taylor, the program typically featured doo wop, rhythm and blues and jazz, particularly the free jazz developed in the mid-1950s. Many of Reed’s guitar techniques, such as the guitar-drum roll, were inspired by jazz saxophonists, notably Ornette Coleman. Reed graduated from the Syracuse College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A in June 1964.

Noted poet Delmore Schwartz taught at Syracuse and befriended Reed, who in 1966 dedicated to Schwartz the song “European Son”, from the Velvet Underground’s debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico.  In 1982, Reed recorded “My House” as a tribute to his late mentor: “My Dedalus to your Bloom was such a perfect wit.” He said later his goals as a writer were “to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music” or to write the Great American Novel in a record album.

Lou Reed died of a liver-related ailment on October 27, 2013

Walk on the Wild Side

Walk on the Wild Side” is a Lou Reed song from his 1972 second solo album Transformer. It was produced by David Bowie, who also sang backing vocals. The song received wide radio coverage, despite its touching on taboo topics such as transsexuality, drugs, male prostitutes and oral sex and the term “colored” to refer to African Americans.

The lyrics tell of a series of individuals and their journeys to New York City, and is a thinly-veiled biography of several of the regular “superstars” at Andy Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory, namely Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (referred to in the song by his nickname Sugar Plum Fairy). Candy Darling was also the subject of Reed’s song “Candy Says”.

Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the USA
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
Hey honey
Take a walk on the wild side

Candy came from out on the Island
In the backroom she was everybody’s darlin’
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
I Said, Hey baby
Take a walk on the wild side
And the coloured girls go
doo do doo do doo do do doo..

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City’s the place where they say,
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, Hey Joe
Take a walk on the wild side

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should’ve seen em go go go
They said, Hey shuga Take a walk on the wild side
I Said, Hey babe
Take a walk on the wild side
All right, huh

Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
Said, Hey babe,
Take a walk on the wild side
I said, Hey honey,
Take a walk on the wild side
and the coloured girls say,
doo do doo do doo do do doo

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  • Audio from the 1972 album, Transformer:

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