Song Lyric Sunday – Walk on the Wild Side

Jim Adam’s gave us an assortment of prompts this week for Song Lyric Sunday. Bottom, End, Middle, Side and Top. I chose Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed. I’ve always loved the song but never really knew the inspiration for the song or the back story. Thanks to Jim’s prompts and researching it for this challenge, I found the following on Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy it.

Walk on the Wild Side” is a song by Lou Reed from his second solo album, Transformer (1972). It was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, and released as a double A-side with “Perfect Day“. The song received wide radio coverage, despite its touching on taboo topics such as transsexual people, drugs, male prostitution, and oral sex. In the United States, RCA released the single using an edited version of the song without the reference to oral sex. In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it at number 223 in its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.[2]

Two decades after the song’s release, Reed told interviewer David Fricke, “I know my obituary has already been written. And it starts out, “Doot, di-doot, di-doot…”

The Inspiration for the Song

In the 2001 documentary Classic Albums: Lou Reed: Transformer, Reed says that it was Nelson Algren’s 1956 novel, A Walk on the Wild Side (itself titled after the 1952 song “The Wild Side of Life”), that was the launching point for the song, even though, as it grew, the song became inhabited by characters from his own life. As with several other Reed songs from the 1970s, the title may also be an allusion to an earlier song, in this case Mack David and Elmer Bernstein’s Walk on the Wild Side, the Academy Award-nominated title song performed by Brook Benton for the 1962 film based on Algren’s novel. During his performance of the song on his 1978 Live: Take No Prisoners album, Reed humorously explains the song’s development from a request that he write the music for the never-completed musical version of Algren’s novel

Each verse refers to one of the “superstars” at Andy Warhol’s New York studio, The Factory

  • “Holly” is based on Holly Woodlawn, a transsexual actress who lived in Miami Beach, Florida as a child. In 1962, after being bullied by homophobes, the fifteen-year-old ran away from home; and, as in the lyrics, learned how to pluck her eyebrows while hitchhiking to New York.
  • “Candy” is based on Candy Darling, a transsexual actress and the subject of an earlier song by Lou Reed, “Candy Says”. She grew up on Long Island (“the island”) and was a regular at “the back room” of Max’s Kansas City. 
  • “Little Joe” was the nickname of Joe Dallesandro, an actor who starred in Flesh, a 1968 film about a teenage hustler. Dallesandro said in 2014 that he had never met Reed when the song was written, and that the lyrics were based on the film character, not himself personally.
  • “Sugar Plum Fairy” has been described a reference to actor Joe Campbell, who played a character by that name in Warhol’s 1965 film, My Hustler. The term was a euphemism for “drug dealer”. “Sugar Plum Fairy” may have been a composite of a number of drug dealers in the Warhol superstars circle.
  • “Jackie” is based on Jackie Curtis, another Warhol actor. “Speeding” and “crashing” are drug references. Curtis at one time hoped to play the role of James Dean in a movie; Dean was killed in a car crash. 
Lyrics

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, 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 sayes, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side

And the colored girls go,
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
 
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, alright, huh
 
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 colored girls say
 
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
 
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Lou Reed
Walk On The Wild Side lyrics
Β© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
 

  14 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Walk on the Wild Side

  1. January 12, 2020 at 12:06 am

    My older sister and I were just talking about this song before Christmas! Great choice, Christine! πŸ™‚

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:26 am

      Thanks Felicia. It is a great song and even greater now I know the story behind it πŸ™‚

  2. January 12, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Def one of my all time favorites. This song played a big part in the feelings behind the piece I wrote for last weeks prompt that featured Lola by the Kinks. What a joy to hear!

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:22 am

      Thanks Violet. I enjoyed learning more about this song. πŸ™‚πŸ’•

  3. January 12, 2020 at 9:45 am

    I love the horns in this song and now I will be going “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” for the rest of the day. Were people still saying “And the colored girls say” back in 1972?

  4. January 12, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Always thought this was an interesting song, but never knew anything about its origins.

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:21 am

      Me neither Maggie. I seem to learn something new every week with the SLS challenge! πŸ™‚

  5. January 12, 2020 at 11:18 am

    A brilliant choice, I love this song!

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:19 am

      Thank you. I always thought it was a cool song πŸ™‚

  6. January 12, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    I’d only heard bits and pieces of the lyrics before and had no idea who they were about. Great origin info, Christine. I remember what a stir this song was when it first hit the radio. Wonderful choice!

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:19 am

      Thanks Lisa. Yes, I didn’t know much about it other than I liked the opening lines and thought it sounded so cool. It was interesting for me to learn more.

  7. January 12, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Nice to know more details. I always thought this song was so cool 😎.

    • Christine Bolton
      January 13, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Thanks Jilly. Yes I learned something too rom researching this song πŸ™‚

  8. January 18, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Interesting reading about this song. I’ve heard it and liked it a lot. πŸ™‚

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