Lou Reed – Walk On the Wild Side Meaning

The second solo album Lou Reed (Lou Reed) Transformer was surprisingly successful. Neither the musician himself, nor David Bowie and Mick Ronson, who produced this record, expected it to rise so high in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Its popularity with listeners was largely due to the active rotation on the radio of the song Walk On the Wild Side, which was released as the first single.

History and meaning

How did the conservative editors of the early 1970s let a song touch on slippery topics that not everyone is ready to bring up for discussion even in our liberal times? For those who don’t know what the song Walk On the Wild Side is about: it’s about transvestites involved in prostitution, drugged and trying to succeed in New York at any cost.

Moreover, all the characters mentioned in the text of Walk On the Wild Side were real people from Andy Warhol’s “Factory”: Holly Woodlawn, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. They starred in Warhol films and really were transvestites.

Lou knew some of them well, others he knew by hearsay. Most likely, he felt sympathy for them, because in his younger years he himself did not immediately decide on his orientation. In one of the interviews he said:

I always thought it would be fun to introduce people to personalities they may not have met before or didn’t want to meet.

In 2008, Holly Woodlawn, to whom (or whom) the first verse of the song is dedicated, was interviewed by The Guardian. He said that he was not previously acquainted with Lou Reed, but he reliably conveyed the facts from his biography in Walk On the Wild Side.

Reed later recalled:

I thought they would gouge out my eyes when I got back to New York. Instead, Candy Darling told me that he had memorized all the songs and would like to record a Candy Darling Sings Lou Reed album. It is unlikely that more than a hundred copies of it could be sold!

Lou Reed borrowed the name Walk On the Wild Side from Nelson Algren’s novel A Walk On the Wild Side, which he called the starting point in the songwriting process. This expression can be interpreted as a call to dare something reckless, without thinking about the possible consequences. But, they say, it has another meaning. Allegedly with this phrase, transvestites engaged in prostitution pester potential clients on the street, offering intimate services.

Bass guitar was performed by session musician Herbie Flowers. Many believe that David Bowie played the saxophone, but, in fact, jazzman Ronnie Ross did it. The girls from Thunderthighs became the backing vocalists. The entire Transformer album was recorded in sixty hours.

Release and achievements

Walk On the Wild Side was released as a single in November 1972 (Perfect Day on the back). And here we should return to the question from the beginning of the article.

Why was the composition willingly put on the radio in the USA and Great Britain, although at that time songs devoted to more decent topics were not allowed to be rotated? Most likely, the editors of the radio stations simply did not understand the slang expressions that are used in the text of Walk On the Wild Side.

DJs, in turn, were only too happy to include such a song in the playlist. True, in the States, obsessed with political correctness, the text had to be slightly corrected (for example, they threw out the word “colored”).

Radio airplay propelled Walk on the Wild Side to number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and number ten on the UK Singles Chart.

The song is included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

Check out Lou Reed’s unofficial Walk on the Wild Side music video, which features real prototypes of the song’s characters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkwD261MHsc

Walk On The Wild Side Lyrics

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 said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

candy came from out on the island,
In the backroom she was everybody’s darling,
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls go

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said:
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 have seen him go, go, go
They said, hey Sugar, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side, alright, 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
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls say

Walk On The Wild Side Lyrics Lou Reed

Holly arrived from Miami, Florida
Hitchhiking across the States
I plucked my eyebrows along the way
She shaved her legs and behold: he was – she became
She said, “Hey baby, do something crazy”
Said, “Hey baby, do something crazy”

Candy to the island from the mainland
In the back room she was nice to everyone
But she never got lost
Even while giving a blowjob
She says “hey baby do something crazy”
Said, “Hey baby, do something crazy”
And colored girls do…

Little Joe never fucked for free
Everyone had to pay – and paid
A little here, a little there
New York is the place where they say:
“Hey baby do something crazy”
I said, “Hey Joe, do something crazy”

Fairy Dragee appeared and went to the street
In search of Negro food and the place where to eat
Went to Apollo
It’s a pity you didn’t see how he walked, walked, walked
They told him, “Hey honey, do something crazy”
I said, “Hey baby, do something crazy – come on”

Jackie is constantly on the meth
She once thought she was James Dean
I think she must have overdosed
Valium would help with this
She said, “Hey baby, do something crazy”
I said, “Hey honey, do something crazy”
And the colored girls say…

Song quote

…an openly gay song I wrote for them, but the lyrics are carefully worded so straight people can ignore the subtext and enjoy it without feeling offended. Although I think some people will be offended by the album.

Lou Reed, Disc and Music Echo, 1972

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