My Top 1000 Songs #224: Walk On The Wild Side

With so many groundbreaking and still relatively underappreciated Velvet Underground songs out there (to say nothing of his long & varied solo career), it feels like kind of a cop-out to give a shout-out to the one Lou Reed song most people have actually heard. Screw the pop singles, bring on "Sister Ray"!!! But its status as a longtime classic rock mainstay detracts from the simple fact that "Walk On The Wild Side" (from 1972's Transformer) is just a brilliant, undeniably wonderful song. That bassline! The sax solo at the end! Lou's gentle, loving, spoken-word narration! David Bowie's affectionate production!

But the real wonder here is the truly transgressive nature of the song (in the most literal sense), Reed's celebration of the various trans characters and players in the New York underground scene, with the sort of attention to sex-and-drugs detail that makes it shocking to think this got radio play in 1972. Hell, given the hateful anti-trans state of much of the nation in 2023, one can only imagine the reaction if this song were newly released today. (And lets not forget the chorus of "colored girls" singing "doo-de-doo"!) It's one of the most ballsy, yet instantly recognizable tracks in pop history, and the fact that it actually got traction (while so much of Reed's often far tamer repertoire with the Velvets & as a solo artist was largely ignored) is a minor miracle.

Live in 1974:
Live in 1984: