I was about 15. I’d been recently “adjusted” in my musical tastes. Before I was fifteen, life had been mostly Beatles, certainly in terms of what I bought or was given. A bit uncool, you might think. You’d be right.
Then it all happened, almost at once. Punk, Post-Punk, New Wave, all in one fell swoop. The Pistols, Joy Division, The Cure, The Stranglers. All that stuff. Best single ever? Another Girl Another Planet by The Only Ones, of course.
And in amongst all this glorious, speed-inflected mayhem was the old guard. Springsteen. Bowie. Reed.
I was round at my friend Jono’s house. His foster parents were dead rich and their son, Humphrey, was Officially Cool, despite his name. Sussex University, hyper-oxided hair.
Jono was playing Humphrey’s records in his foster dad’s leathery study. The stereo was slim, black, slick – very expensive looking. Must have been a Bang & Olufsen – bit of a step from our Sanyo Music Centre. Jono expertly tee’d the next disc up.
It was the first note – very resonant, very low, very smooth, jazzy – effortlessly cool. Once the brushes got to work it sounded familiar – but not so familiar to make it popular, which was of course the whole point in those teen times.
But it wasn’t just that. What made this different from the usual hectic stuff was that this sound was intimate – close-up. An American alien standing close by, whispering softly (but firmly) into my ear – evoking an exotic, seamy, landscape which, once he’d finished, seemed alarmingly familiar. Alarming because I was, after all, a cosy young Cotswoldian.
Songs are only songs, granted. One had other things to do – even fifteen-year-old boys had other things to do.
But to me these songs made “Strange” accessible, exciting – desirable even. Not because they were different or cool. But because they came to life, became real. Transformer dug up some wild outcasts, brought them in from the cold and made them a cup of tea, right next to you. As a result, the freaks became your friends. No bad thing, when you’re learning to be open-minded.
The irony, of course, is that even though Walk on The Wild Side sounded like it had been recorded in New Orleans in some seedy back alley, it had in fact been recorded in London’s slightly more straight-backed and well off (even in the 70s) Soho, by an almost entirely British ensemble.
So maybe it all wasn’t quite so far out, after all. Maybe they’d all been to the Cotswolds for a break the weekend before.
This is my favourite Lou Reed track. It’s a really beautiful, reassuring lullaby.
Have a Perfect Day, Lou. Again and again and again.