Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Lou Reed

Had Lou Reed been born 65 years ago today, it would be his 65th birthday.

This influential and controversial singer-songwriter has often been accused of writing controversial and influential songs about drugs, transvestites and sado-masochism; an informed analysis of his influential lyrics shows that the majority of his controversial songs were about fairly mundane, uncontroversial issues. Reviewing a few examples will show this.

Heroin
The unusual spelling used in the song title has led people to think this is a song about drugs; however it is clear from the lyrics that this is a song about the ups and downs of married life and how his wife is a heroine for putting up with it:
“Heroin, be the death of me
Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life”

Walk on the Wild Side
It has been suggested that this is about transvestites working the streets of New York; but again careful reading of the lyrics shows that far from being ‘camp’ it is actually about camping out in America’s great National Parks.
“Holly came from Miami FLA.
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”

Street Hassle
This medley of songs is said to range from sex-for-cash, a drug-user’s indifference to the death of a visitor and a bitter lament to lost love. It is in fact about the importance of saving for retirement and putting a bit away to cover your funeral expenses.
“But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet
And just lay her out on the darkened street
And by morning, she’s just another hit and run”

Perfect Day
Usually seen as overly romantic, sentimental mush, this is in fact Lou Reed’s only song about drugs (and probably transvestite, transsexual Transylvania too), as the lyrics clearly show:
“Just a perfect day,
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later, a movie, too,
And then home.”

1 comment:

That's so pants said...

Thoroughly insightful. NME doesn't know what it's missing