Lou Reed

Perfect Day

Composed by Lou Reed

Song Review by

"Perfect Day" is a logical extension of Lou Reed's work up through Transformer (1972); he always had a bit of Brill Building, if not Tin Pan Alley songwriting in him. The song begins as traditional jazz-pop songcraft, like the classic nuggets churned out by those tune factories. Over a lazy progression of piano chords, a bastardized Burt Bachrach-type of arrangement, Reed drawls like a modern-day Perry Como: "Just a perfect day/Drink sangria in the park/And then later when it gets dark, we go home/Oh, it's such a perfect day/I'm glad I spend it with you/Oh, such a perfect day/You just keep me hanging on." But this being Reed, in a way the anti-Como, the summery song soon takes a turn for the dark side, even if only subtly so: "Just a perfect day/You made me forget myself/I thought I was someone else, someone good," ending with the menacing refrain of, "You're going to reap just what you sow/You're going to reap just what you sow." He takes the pernicious approach of Brian Wilson to a new level. What has made such a day turn so sour? Why is the narrator so bitter? We don't know for sure, but he certainly seems to be at war with himself. It appears that the "perfect day" is now just a memory, and as in an old blues, country, or folk song, the narrator warns of some impending doom, tragedy for the addressee of the lyric for apparently doing him wrong and denying him further such idyllic moments. The intermingling light and dark made the song a perfect centerpiece for the film adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel exploring heroin use, Trainspotting (1996). Reed is accompanied by only the piano, a small jazz rhythm section, and light orchestration, which swells during the chorus, wherein Reed outrightly croons. The strings build to a crescendo before gliding into the coda refrain. The student aids the master on this record; David Bowie -- who had long before acknowledged Reed's influence -- produces Transformer, the second post-Velvet Underground Reed solo album, and gives Reed's career a much-needed boost. Surprisingly, Bowie sideman, Mick Ronson, known more for his identifiable electric guitar punch, supplies the traditional, decidedly non-rock & roll arrangement.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Transformer 1972 BMG / Sony Music
No Image 1979 RCA
I Can't Stand It 1982 RCA
No Image 1983 RCA
Retro 1989 BMG / Sony Music Distribution 3:39
No Image 1995 Camden International
Trainspotting [Original Soundtrack] 1996
Original Soundtrack
Rhino
Different Times: Lou Reed in the '70s 1996 RCA 3:45
Perfect Day 1997 Phantom Import Distribution
Original Seeds: Songs That Inspired Nick Cave 1998
Various Artists
BMG
Perfect Day 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:45
Perfect Night: Live in London 1998 Reprise / Warner Bros. 3:46
The Best Glam Rock Album in the World Ever 1998
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:43
Movie Lovers: 20 Original Movie Love Themes 1998
Various Artists
Records 3:16
Hits from the Underground: The 70's 1998
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:45
Essential Soundtracks 1999
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 3:43
No Image 1999
Various Artists
V Two
Sounds of the 70's [Global TV] 1999
Various Artists
Global TV 3:42
Movie Madness: Cool Songs From Hot Flicks 2000
Original Soundtrack
Delta Distribution 3:46
Very Best of Lou Reed 2000 BMG International 3:46
Number One 70's 2000
Various Artists
PolyGram 3:40
The Wild Side: Best of Lou Reed 2000 BMG International 3:45
Drop Dead Gorgeous 2001
Various Artists
Global TV 3:45
Legendary 2002 BMG International 3:44
Rock Classics: The Heavyweights 2002
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution / Sony Music Entertainment 3:44
No Image 2002
Various Artists
Warner Strategic Marketing 3:53
The Raven 2003 Reprise 3:27
NYC Man: The Collection 2003 RCA/BMG 3:43
Real 70's: The Polyester Hits, Disc Two 2003
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:45
Real 70's: The Polyester Hits 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 3:45
No Image 2004 BMG Special Products 3:46
Spanish Fly: Lou Reed Live in Spain [DVD] 2005 Sanctuary
Acoustic Love [WEA] 2005
Various Artists
WEA/Warner Special Marketing 3:52
Live at Montreux 2000 2005 Eagle Vision
Lou Reed/Transformer 2006 RCA
The Ultimate Love Collection [EMI Gold] 2006
Various Artists
EMI 3:45
Love Songs [Ar-Express] 2007
Various Artists
Ar-Express / Sony BMG 3:44
A Beautiful Love 2007
Various Artists
EMI 3:44
Absolute Movie Love Songs 2007
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 3:45
World's Best Dad [2007] 2007
Various Artists
Bmg Tv 3:46
100 Anthems: Chill Out 2008
Various Artists
Rhino / Wea UK 3:44
World's Best Dad Gift Set 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 5:09
Original Album Classics [#2] 2008 RCA / Sony BMG
Playlist: The Very Best of Lou Reed 2008 Sony Music
Singer 2008
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:44
Through the Years: New York 1983 - Spain 2004 [DVD] 2008 Immortal
101 Power Ballads 2008
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:45
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Sony BMG 3:45
Perfect Day: The Best of Lou Reed 2009 Camden
Essential: The Power of Rock 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:45
The Best of Lou Reed [SBC] 2009 sbc / Sony Music Entertainment
Forever Friends: A Song for You 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music Entertainment 3:44
The Best Movie Album in the World... Ever! 2 2009
Various Artists
EMI 3:41
No Image 2010
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution / Sony Music Entertainment 3:45
101 Barbecue Songs 2010
Various Artists
EMI 3:46
Haynes Ultimate Guide to Rock: Dad 2010
Various Artists
Sony Music Entertainment 3:44
Essential: Easy Listening 2010
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:41
Perfect Day 2011
Various Artists
Decca / Universal 3:42
I Love Maman 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:40
I Love Papa 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 3:45
The Essential Lou Reed 2011 Legacy / RCA 3:43
Pure... Love 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:44
Proud [Sony] 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:45
The Party Mix: Power Ballads 2014
Various Artists
Crimson 3:44
Pure... American Anthems 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:44
The Sire Years: Complete Albums Box 2015 Rhino / Sire 3:27
The  RCA & Arista Album Collection 2016 Legacy / RCA 3:46
No Image 2016 Legacy / RCA / Sony Music 3:45
The '70s Love Album 2017
Various Artists
Crimson
100 Essential Tracks: Singer-Songwriter Hits
Various Artists
Sony Music
100 Hits: Car Songs
Various Artists
100 Hits / Demon Records / Edsel 3:45
Alternative Love
Various Artists
Camden / Sony Music
Grandes Canções Do Cinema
Various Artists
Farol Música
Haynes Driving Anthems
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:42
Meer Dan Het Beste Van 1972-86 Humo Selecteert
Pure... Movies [Sony]
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:42
Trainspotting [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
Various Artists
GC / Rhino / Warner Music 3:44
No Image
Various Artists
Rubber Records
blue highlight denotes editor's pick