Thursday, November 01, 2012

I know from cool

Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side was played on top 40 AM radio when it was released in 1972. I know this because I distinctly remember hearing it on the radio when I was driving with my mother to the super market, and my mother certainly didn't listen to anything but top 40 AM radio.

And I remember suddenly being aware: "this is cool."

I don't mean I thought it was cool, I mean I realized that what I was hearing would be properly classified as "cool" although at that age I don't know what possible use I could have had for the concept of cool. But I knew it was.

And of course it is the very epitome of cool.

And I had no idea what the lyrics were about. The term "colored girls" was retro, since at that time the proper term for African-Americans was "black" but somehow I understood "colored girls" was being used ironically. And I surely did know that him saying "and the colored girls go do, do do, do do, do do" - and then having  the colored girls actually go do, do do, do do was without a doubt coolness.

The slow deliberate rhythm of the thumpy bass and jazzy drums dripped with coolness and Lou Reed's voice was unlike anything I had ever heard - his singing was closer to talking so it was more like poetry than a pop song.

And then the saxophone fade-out - clearly this was coolness.

Wiki notes:
The song received wide radio coverage, despite its touching on taboo topics such as transsexuality, drugs, male prostitutes and oral sex. In the United States, RCA released an edited version of the song as a single which eliminated the song's reference to oral sex.

I was years away from knowing what "giving head" meant anyway.

Eventually I came to understand that the song is about associates of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, but only in the past day or so of reading up do I really know the deal with the lyrics. But first here are the lyrics:
Holly came from Miami FLA.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows along the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side
Candy came from out on the island
in the backroom she was everybody's darling
But she never lost her head even when she was giving head
She says, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
and the coloured girls go
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo etc.
Little Joe never once gave it away
everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York city is the place where they said
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side
Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
lookin' for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo you should have seen him go go go
They said, hey Sugar, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
all right,
Jackie is just speeding away
thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
valium would have helped that  bash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side
and the coloured girls say
Doo, doo, doo, doo etc.
Holly refers to Holly Woodlawn a trandgender Warhol actor. My favorite item in her bio:
Woodlawn created a stir when she was arrested in New York City after impersonating the wife of the French Ambassador to the United Nations.

Candy Darling was also a transsexual and the island she came from was Long Island, Massapequa to be exact. She died in 1974 of lymphoma.

Little Joe Dallesandro was a male hustler, although he's bisexual not gay. He was an amazingly beautiful man in 1967. Wow. It's his crotch on the cover of the Rolling Stone's Sticky Fingers.

Sugar Plum Fairy is identified as Joe Campbell. He doesn't have his own Wiki page but this web page claims he was a lover of Harvey Milk and he died of AIDS.

Jackie Curtis was a transvestite and was a playwright as well as an actor. He died of a heroin overdose at 38.