(Disclaimer: This addresses Lou Reed as a solo musician and does not include content
from the Velvet Underground. ClassicRockHistory.com is proud to present……
The Top 10 Lou Reed Songs.
10. ‘Talking Book’ (Perfect Night / 1998)
If you’ve never heard of this song, there is most certainly a reason why. Its only official performance by Reed was on his 1998 live record, Perfect Night. The haunting ballad was written for ‘Time Rocker,’ a foreign play Reed composed the music for. The play was never properly recorded, but he did let this gem drop two years later on this live record. It’s everything wonderful about Lou Reed: simplistic, relatable, and emotional.
9. ‘I Wanna Know’ (The Raven / 2003)
Lou Reed was often at his finest when he surrounded himself with equally superb talents. In 2003, he embarked on an incredibly ambitious endeavor with ‘The Raven.’ A collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama manifested itself into ‘I Wanna Know,’ one of the Top Ten Lou Reed Songs that perfectly exhibits Reed’s talent as a bluesman. (Both as a vocalist and lyricist.)
8. ‘How Do You Speak to an Angel’ (Growing Up In Public / 1980)
The 80s was for Lou Reed, like it was for many artists of his era, rough and tumble.
Before those hit/miss records, however, he started off the decade with ‘Growing Up In
Public.’ The album is a wonderfully eccentric, amusing, and unsurprisingly frank
journey through Lou Reed wrestling with adulthood. The opening track, ‘How Do You
Speak to an Angel,’ is its most memorable. Who hasn’t had anxiety about speaking to
the prettiest girl in the room? This cataclysmic rocker is so delightfully personable.
7. ‘Walk On the Wild Side’ (Transformer / 1972)
It earned its place in history, and it’s earned its place on this list. ‘Walk on the Wild
Side’ remains the most lasting impression Lou Reed ever made on music. Its bass riff?
Legendary. Its lyrics? Unforgettable. Thus, it is one of his finest tunes. One could argue,
though, that it merely opened a gateway for Reed to break free from the Velvet
Underground. It sent Reed into the stratosphere as a solo artist, and hence, it’ll always
be a great song and one of the most popular Lou Reed songs in his entire catalog.
6. ‘Sad Song’ (Berlin / 1973)
Just as quickly as Lou Reed gained the adoration of the music community, he lost it all
with ‘Berlin,’ his epicly large critical flop. Four decades later, it’s considered one of his
best releases. The album, which delves deep into domestic abuse, suicide, depression,
and other terrifying notions, ends with ‘Sad Song.’ This triumph of production is one of
Reed’s most classically beautiful compositions.
5. ‘Coney Island Baby’ (Coney Island Baby / 1976)
After several more bizarre releases post ‘Berlin,’ Reed returned to Velvet Underground
stylism for ‘Coney Island Baby.’ The titular tune is a lovely insight to a young Reed, one
who just “wants to play football for the coach.” Reed had very troubled teenage years;
his sexuality caused his parents to subject him to electroshock therapy. ‘Coney Island
Baby’ reveals the softhearted boy underneath that survived the torture.
4. ‘Cremation (Ashes to Ashes)’ (Magic & Loss / 1992)
When one of Lou Reed’s friends was dying of cancer, he penned one of the saddest,
most in-depth commentaries of death ever written. ‘Magic & Loss is a masterpiece in
its entirety, somberly tugging at your heartstrings and soul as Reed approaches death
with his signature wit and cynicism. ‘Cremation (Ashes to Ashes)’ is one of the most
breathtaking compositions on the record, and it also contains some of its best musings
3. ‘NYC Man’ (Set The Twilight Reeling / 1996)
‘NYC Man’ is the spiritual successor to ‘Walk on the Wild Side.’ With its excellent bass
riffing and carefree lyricism, the track showcases Lou Reed in his element: New York
City. “Blink your eyes and I’ll be gone,” he croons over a track of self-acceptance. After
the wholly depressing Magic & Loss and Songs For Drella albums, ‘Set The Twilight
Reeling’ is a very special return to life and its oddities for Reed.
2. ‘Halloween Parade’ (New York / 1989)
It’s immeasurably difficult to choose a track from ‘New York’ that isn’t amongst Lou
Reed’s finest songs. The album decisively ended Reed’s tumultuous decade with one of
his most terrific, insightful, and well-executed records since the Velvet Underground.
‘Halloween Parade’ is one of the most special tracks on the album. It’s imaginative
nature is joyfully brilliant.
1. ‘Street Hassle.’ (Street Hassle / 1978)
How does one describe ‘Street Hassle’? It remains Lou Reed’s purest, most outstanding
work for a variety of reasons. This three-part rock opera boasts Reed’s staggeringly
good lyrical ability at its best, and though certainly not-safe-for-work, it is compellingly
poetic. Its composition is also one of, if not, Reed’s most marvelous. ‘Street Hassle’ is
the closest Lou Reed ever got to capturing his genius in one take.
“I wanted to write a song that had a great monologue set to rock. Something that
could have been written by William Burroughs, Hubert Selby, John Rechy,
Tennessee Williams, Nelson Algren, maybe a little Raymond Chandler. You mix it
all up and you have ‘Street Hassle’.”
– Lou Reed
Top 10 Lou Reed Songs: written by Brett Stewart
“Brett Stewart is a journalist and musician who lives and works in the city of Chicago. Previously, he’s written for publications such as the Guardian Liberty Voice and he served as the Editor-in-Chief of Strike Magazine for two years. You can connect with Stewart on his website and via Twitter.”