Any admirer of Lou Reed’s music would readily declare that the ex-member of The Velvet Underground, a pioneering rock band, has a treasure trove of fantastic songs to his name.
This broad selection makes picking out just one as the pinnacle of his artistry a daunting task. Nevertheless, for the musician himself, there was no quandary when it came to naming his crowning achievement: “Walk on the Wild Side.”
As revealed in the 2001 documentary titled Classic Albums: Lou Reed: Transformer, Reed was candid about the inception of this unique track.
The birthplace of the song was the 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side, penned by the notable American writer Nelson Algren.
Lou Reed drew inspiration from Algren’s narrative, using it as a stepping stone to craft his musical storytelling.
However, Reed’s creative process didn’t stop there. As the melody of “Walk on the Wild Side” evolved and matured, Reed started to interweave elements of his personal experiences into the narrative.
Each verse of the song introduced a persona from his life – the “superstars” from Andy Warhol’s legendary New York studio, The Factory. Names like Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Joe Campbell, and Jackie Curtis were immortalized in the lyrics.
Reed once confessed in an interview with Classic Rock Stories, “If I were to step back from music now, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is the song I’d want to be remembered by. It’s my magnum opus.”
Originally conceived as a musical theatre piece, the song didn’t quite transpire as Reed initially envisioned.
Despite this divergence from his original concept, Reed elected to press on. “The theatrical piece didn’t materialize, but I wasn’t about to let the time and energy I invested in the track go to waste,” Reed asserted.
This determination proved fortuitous, as thousands of music enthusiasts today gratefully laud his resolve. The decision led to the creation of one of the most distinctive, beautiful tracks, a standout gem in his vast and successful discography.