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

By | February 19, 2021

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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.

Lou Reed And The Velvet Underground Were Part Of Andy Warhol's Scene

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Lou Reed. Source: (Ultmate Classic Rock)

The Velvet Underground began as a collaboration between Lou Reed and John Cale in 1964. In 1965, the Velvet Underground got a nightly gig playing at Café Bizarre in 1965, singing their songs about prostitution and drug use. Here, they met Andy Warhol, who was introduced through Paul Morrissey. The Underground became one of Andy Warhol’s pet projects, and while Warhol was their manager and one of the financiers of their project, Velvet Underground and the German singer/model Nico recorded their album in 1966, released as the group's debut and titled The Velvet Underground & Nico. As they were working with Warhol, they met the superstars, some of whom became the subject of Reed’s later solo song, “Walk on the Wild Side.”