Posts Tagged ‘Lou Reed’

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Factory Record

August 1, 2017

Walk On The Wild Side is perhaps Lou Reed‘s best-known song.

Lou ReedWalk On The Wild Side

Its languid vocal and lazy shuffle conjurs up images of stifling summer New York heat; sticky tarmac on pavements (or should that be sidewalks?), teenage girls singing with carefree abandon on street corners, a loose-limbed groove that never outstays its welcome. Listen closely though and you’ll hear a tale of the New York underbelly, the New York that was off the beaten track yet a daily experience if you were part of the Warhol ‘Factory’ set; Hustlers hustling. Drugs and dealers. Pimps and prostitutes. Females who were shemales. This is girls who are boys who like boys to be girls long before it was a Britpop soundbite. Not for nothing was its parent album called ‘Transformer‘.

Here’s an early version, with very different lyrics and Lou pointing out the girls’ parts….

The released version is a radically re-written homage to the Factory set; the scenesters and teensters who orbited around Andy Warhol’s Manhattan Studio. There were actually 3 Factories, but that’s another story for another day.

Holly who shaved her legs was Holly Woodlawn, a transgender actress who ran away from home in Florida at the age of 15 and by the act of shaving her legs on the way literally changed from man to woman.

Candy was Candy Darling, also a transgender actress. The subject of the Velvets’ Candy Says, she grew up in Long Island – the island – and was known to perform favours in the back room of Max’s Kansas City, the hipper than hip venue/hangout that was central to the scene. That’s Candy (above) with Andy. It’s her face who’s on the cover of Sheila Take A Bow, The Smiths’ 14th single. But you knew that already.

Little Joe was Joe Dallesandro, Warhol actor best known for his role in Flesh, where he played a teenage hustler. Coincidentally, that’s Joe on the cover of The Smiths’ debut album. But you knew that already too.

The Sugar Plum Fairy was another Flesh reference, this time to the name of a drug-dealing character in the film.

Jackie was Jackie Curtis. To say the least, an interesting person, she performed bizarre cabaret dressed sometimes as a woman and sometimes in drag. With overdone glitter, big lipstick, heavily kholed eyes, brightly dyed hair and ripped stockings, Jackie’s combination of trash and glamour was considered the catalyst for the glam rock movement. Certainly, she wouldn’t have looked out of place in the New York Dolls. At one time, Curtis was mooted to play James Dean in a biopic of Dean’s life. This never came to fruition, hence the thought she was James Dean for a day line. So now you know.

Perhaps not surprisingly, such a parade of characters and subject matter fell foul of the US censors. On the released single, they removed the references to the colored girls and giving head and the record peaked inside the Top 20. In the UK, the lyrics remained as Lou had intended and Walk On The Wild Side peaked at number 10. Make of that what you will.

Walk On The Wild Side was put together by Lou alongside co-producers David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

Walk On The Wild Side – hissy outtake with David Bowie on backing vocals

It’s said that Bowie plays guitar on WOTWS, although no credits exist to back this up. Considering at this point in time (August ’72) Bowie was spreading himself between Ziggy tours, Mott The Hoople handouts and Lou Reed production duties, given his propensity to eschew all form of food for music-related activity, it’s not unlikely to suggest he did play on it. It was quite an era for Bowie when you stop to think about it.

One person who definitely did play on WOTWS was seasoned sessioneer Herbie Flowers. Later to find fame in 70s instrumental prog/jazz group Sky, the fly Flowers played two bass lines on the song, thus ensuring himself twice the fee. He played that great defining slinky rubber band bassline and double tracked it with a more traditional Fender bass part, doubling his fee from the industry standard $17 to a more eye-watering $34. Quite how he must feel these days, now that the record is a radio standard and that his part is instantly recognisable, not to mention that the bassline was liberally sampled to form the hook on A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It? is anyone’s guess, but I bet he wishes he’d gambled on taking the royalties instead of the session fee.

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You Are Night Club People, Ain’tcha?

June 7, 2015

A double whammy of night club tracks…

dancers

Iggy Pop‘s Nightclubbing is a fantastic product of its environment. It was written by Iggy and Bowie during a particularly decadent period in time, when they hung with Lou Reed in the off-beaten spots of Berlin and and took all manner of pills, powders and potions just to keep themselves alive and creative. It pulses with a creeping electro throb, a jack-booted mechanical goose-step that never changes tempo, never changes rhythm but always sounds menacing. It’s louche, sleazy and vaguely sinister and to this day is just about my favourite Iggy track.

Iggy PopNightclubbing

bowie iggy lou

It was written after one of their many Berlin benders, when Bowie suggested the ‘We walk like a ghost‘ lyric. The Thin White Duke pounds out the skewed honky tonk blues on the upright piano while Iggy half-sings, half-narrates the tale of an average night out in Berlin for the three of them. You can see them, can’t you, a trio of messed up, pale-faced druggy rockstars stalking the city like a gang of up-to-no-good alleycats seeking their next kick.

Nightclubbing, we’re nightclubbing……we’re what’s happening…….we meet people, brand new people….

The SpecialsNite Klub (the spelling is important) on the other hand is as far removed from Iggy et al as Venus is from Mars. A frantic punky, jerky and ska-based, exotica-tinged knee-trembler round the back of The Ritz, one eye over your shoulder on the lookout for a bouncer or her pals or her actual boyfriend or something, it tells the tale of Friday/Saturday in N.E. Town in late 70s/early 80s provincial Britain.

The SpecialsNite Klub

The-Specials

Most nite klubs in those days were big and cavernous and left-over relics from a bygone age when times were simpler and people had more disposable income. The local Scala or Locarno or Roxy or Palais or whatever had seen better days and bigger crowds as a dancehall and might’ve by now been doubling up as a bingo hall. It may well have been on its way to becomingĀ  a cinema. The Specials sing of a club fraught with tension and the notion that at any time soon, you might get your head kicked in, either by a local who doesn’t like the fact that you went to a different school/grew up on a different estate/looked funny at him or by one of the bow tied neanderthal bouncers employed to keep (cough) order in the place.

I won’t dance in a club like this,’ bemoans Terry Hall. ‘All the girls are slags and the beer tastes just like piss.’

We’ve all been to those places. Some of the best nights of my life were in them. And some of the worst.

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Lou Reed

October 27, 2013

Deid.

Poor Lou.

lou reed

In the vein of “I’m Hank Marvin” = “I’m Starvin‘”, so a new rock rhyming slang is born.

Shane MacGowan? Is he no’ Lou Reed?”

We used to indulge in Lou Reed before our nights out at The Attic in Irvine. Set you up nicely for the night ahead. Best wee disco on the planet, it was.

Poor Lou.

Here’s Lou featuring his drug buddy Bowie on those ping pong backing vocals. Not Perfect Day. Just perfect.

 

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