The centerpiece of the first Velvet Underground album, "Heroin" is also one of Lou Reed's most legendary compositions, a seven-minute monolith that he would, in later years, stretch to almost twice that length, so conscious was he of the song's bearing on his own legend. Myriad interpretations of the song exist. Defending the Velvet Underground against the common charge that they glorified drug use and depravity, drummer Maureen Tucker described "Heroin" as a song about a bad trip, and that might well be the case -- line for line, the song really doesn't take sides. Such subtleties were lost on many of the band's audience, however -- in 1973, Reed himself complained of fans who approached him to announce, "I shot up to your song," while his own performances (during the Rock and Roll Animal tour) frequently saw him tying off with his microphone cord and miming precisely the same action himself. Whatever its intentions, there is no doubting "Heroin"'s quality, both lyrically -- the verses do indeed trace a user's absorption of the drug, physically and emotionally -- and musically. Led by Cale's almost pained viola, the band -- understated for much of the song -- reaches an absolutely maniacal peak of intensity in the final section, a fact that Reed readily acknowledged in 1977. "'Heroin' is very close to the feeling you get from smack. It starts on a certain level, it's deceptive. You think you're enjoying it. But by the time it hits you, it's too late. You don't have any choice. It comes at you harder and faster and it keeps on coming. The song is everything but the real thing."