Lou Reed, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ — Lyrics Uncovered
In 1972, Lou Reed released what would be his biggest hit ever with ‘Walk on the Wild Side.’ The lyrics of the song, a David Bowie-produced single from Reed’s second solo disc, ‘Transformer,’ are an ode to some of the ‘superstars’ of pop artist Andy Warhol’s famed studio, The Factory.
Each verse tells the New York stories of these eclectic real-life characters, who crossed paths with Reed during his days as frontman of the Velvet Underground and beyond:
“Holly came from Miami, F-L-A…”
Holly Woodlawn is a transvestite actress who appeared in the Warhol-produced 1970 cult film ‘Trash’ after the artist met her during a screening for the movie’s predecessor, 1968′s ‘Flesh.’ The two films are part of a trilogy that also included 1972′s ‘Heat.’ Woodlawn, who was born Haroldo Danhaki in Puerto Rico, continues to act in indie films to this day, while also performing cabaret shows from time to time.
“Candy came from out on the Island…”
Candy Darling was a transsexual actress who appeared in ‘Flesh’ and ‘Women in Revolt.’ In this verse, Reed pushed the lyrical standards envelope with the line “But she never lost her head / Even when she was giving head,” but the tune mostly made it past censors because the term was not very common at the time. Darling, who died of leukemia at the age of 29 in 1974, was previously popularized in the Velvet Underground song ‘Candy Says.’
“Little Joe never once gave it away…”
Joe Dallesandro appeared in all three movies in the aforementioned Warhol trilogy, and has gone on to act in many films over his career. Dallesandro, as the song notes, was a hustler during his teen years, but later became a bit of a pop icon as a male model. He graced the covers of Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 and the Smiths’ 1984 self-titled debut album.
“Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets…”
The Sugar Plum Fairy refers to Joe Campbell, who was known for his long-term relationship with the late openly gay politician Harvey Milk (later portrayed on film by Sean Penn). Campbell appeared in Warhol’s 1965 film ‘My Hustler’ (also known as ‘Temptations’). He passed away in 2005 after a long battle with AIDS.
“Jackie is just speeding away…”
Jackie Curtis was a transgender actor and performance artist who appeared in ‘Flesh’ and ‘Women in Revolt,’ along with a number of theater productions. The song’s line “Then I guess she had to crash / Valium would have helped that bash” referred to Curtis’ drug use. Sadly, it was a heroin overdose that took Curtis’ life in 1985.
Watch Lou Reed Perform ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ in 1982