1001 Songs Challenge,  1970s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #366: Walk on the Wild Side (1972)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side (1972)

Farewell to Brazil today, dear reader, as we venture back north to the US and to New York. I think we should check in with The Velvet Underground only they have disbanded and one of their members, Lou Reed, is now trying to build a solo career. His first album divided the critics but for his second effort, Transformer, he worked with David Bowie and Mick Ronson, both pivotal in Bowie’s music at this time. Transformer would yield Reed’s masterpieces – Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side. The latter has been chosen for our list. 

Walk on the Wild Side was originally intended as the soundtrack for a theatrical adaptation of Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel of the same name. The play did not materialise but Reed took inspiration from Algren’s book. He also reflected on the many individuals he had crossed paths with known as Andy Warhol’s superstars. The song makes reference to Holly and Candy who are both transexual actors, Little Joe is a prostitute, Sugar Plum Fairy is a drug dealer, while Jackie is another actor from Warhol’s circle. Each individual is described as doing something different and the lyrics, for the time, were controversial. Holly works on her eyebrows while hitchhiking, Candy performs oral sex, Little Joe sells himself to anyone that can afford him. Sugar Plum Fairy plies his trade in drugs, while Jackie is on drugs and dreaming of filming James Dean’s death in a car crash. Lou Reed perfectly summed up the song by saying it’s about those people at parties no one wants to approach.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Lou Reed’s work with The Velvet Underground with Venus in Furs being a particular favourite. Walk on the Wild Side is Reed’s signature solo song though and it still sounds fresh and daring to this day. Reed would not really come close to replicating it though the brilliant, Perfect Day, enjoyed a renaissance in the 1990s and a cover version with numerous artists taking part was released in 1997 to raise money for Children in Need. It did very well. His work with The Velvet Underground and the likes of Transformer cemented Reed’s name in music history. He died in 2013 at the age of 71 from liver disease.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)

The Doors – The End (1967)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Kinks – Days (1968)

Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)

David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)

Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)

Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side (1972)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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