Part of an irregular series of bite-sized posts about 7″ singles I own – shameless nostalgia from the days of vinyl. (Search ‘Backtracking’ to collect the set!)
LOU REED : Walk On The Wild Side b/w Perfect Day (RCA Victor, 1972)
Lou Reed is not renowned for being a sentimental man.
He has built his reputation on songs with Velvet Underground and beyond about life on the dark side : suicide, prostitution, S & M and hard drugs.
This makes this song all the more surprising and touching. On the face of it, Perfect Day is a blissful romantic memory of spending quality time with a loved one. Simple pleasures of drinking Sangria in the park, a visit to the zoo and a trip to the movies are like an amalgamation of ideal things to do with a partner. A walk on the sunny side in contrast to the A side stroll down meaner streets.
But there are black clouds on the horizon that threaten this idyll. The key line for me is when Lou sings “You made me forget myself, I thought I was someone else…..someone good”. This transforms the song from a song of innocence to one of experience. Lou does not in his wildest dreams imagine life is really like this for very long and wants us to know that he knows.
The song first appeared on the overrated 1972 album Transformer produced by David Bowie. This was Bowie doing his rescue act for a hero in crisis, an act he also performed for Iggy Pop with The Idiot and Lust For Life.
A star-studded cover for Children In Need means the song is now remembered as a message of charity and hope so any negative subtext has been effectively eliminated.
Walk On the Wild Side itself has also become a standard that has lost any shock value it might have had. It makes me smile that this was not banned by the prudes at the BBC who presumably at that time didn’t know the significance of “giving head”. I saw Lou Reed perform this live on two occasions as an encore each time. Both times he murdered it – it was like he was miffed by the fact that this has become his ‘big hit’.