Walk On The Wild Side: Lyrics And Meaning Of Lou Reed's NYC Anthem

By Cyn Felthousen-Post
American musician Lou Reed (1942-2013) performs live on stage in 1974. (Photo by Gai Terrell/Redferns)

"Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed captures characters and an era in its lyrics like few other songs in rock 'n roll history. Reed, the quintessential edgy New York musician, was plugged into the art scene of Andy Warhol and was a catalyst for stripped-down noisy rock that would come to be known as punk (in 1976, he would be featured ono the cover of the first issue of Punk magazine). Reed's New York City of the late '60s and early '70s was an underground, populated by marginalized people whose stories weren't usually told in pop songs -- in fact, outside of certain David Bowie songs and "Lola" by The Kinks (more on that later), Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side" was the only radio hit you were going to hear in 1972 about cross dressers and transsexuals, oral sex and drug use.

And yes, it was a radio hit -- the only one of Reed's career -- rising to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and going on to become a fixture on classic-rock radio.