Walk on the Wild Side
Writer(s): Lou Reed (see lyrics here)
Released: November 8, 1972
First Charted: February 17, 1973
Peak: 16 US, 17 CB, 17 HR, 1 CL, 1 CO, 10 UK, 18 CN, 100 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK, 0.2 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 73.87 video, -- streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Lou Reed, “who never ceased to offend somebody,” UCR references valium, oral sex, hustlers, and whores in what is likely the “the first transvestite rock song that middle America heard.” UCR The song title came from A Walk on the Wild Side by Nelson Algren. Reed was tapped to write songs for a musical based on the novel, but it never came about. RS500
On the resulting song, Reed served as the “narrator brilliantly delivering his cool rap-like observations” UCR about real people including Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis. They were all actors and/or transsexuals Reed knew through artist Andy Warhol. WK As Reed said, “I always thought it would be kinda fun to introduce people you see at parties but don’t dare approach.” RS500
He “paints such as vivid picture of deliberate decadence that it can still be shocking…years later.” RY It also serves as “a chillingly stark portrait” RY about the underbelly of New York City, “America’s largest and darkest city.” RY When Reed “invokes the ‘colored girls’ to sing ‘do do-do do-do, do-do-do’ and their voices fade into the lush atmospheric sound of a lazy baritone sax solo, the music suggests the atmosphere of a New York City subway station at three in the morning.” RY
Reed hadn’t found commercial success with his band Velvet Underground or his first solo outing. However, David Bowie idolized Reed and he’d achieved enough clout as “the rising star of British glam-rock” TB to “freely bestow his Midas touch upon other artists who interested him.” RY “The sweet touches in the vocal harmonies, and the quick and deceptively simple arrangements are in large part due to Bowie” TC and his production on the song and Transformer album. It gave Reed his “greatest solo success.” TB
First posted 4/28/2020; last updated 7/23/2022.
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