Lou Reed

Street Hassle

Composed by Lou Reed

Song Review by

The epic title track to Lou Reed's eighth solo album, "Street Hassle" is a gritty rock opera in 11 minutes flat, sex and drugs and death tumbling over one another while cellos saw, the backing singers croon, Bruce Springsteen wanders through for a very effective cameo, and Reed himself cements his status as New York's greatest living poet for all time. "People are always using whole string sections," Reed said of the song's remarkable construction. "We just zeroed in on the groovy part."

Recorded at New York's Record Plant, "Street Hassle" is divided into three suites. It opens with "Waltzing Matilda" (no relation to the Australian anthem of the same name), in which we meet the song's protagonists in the midst of a protractedly no-holds-barred sex scene. A little over three minutes in, "Street Hassle" itself rides in on a heavenly chorale before a brutally earthy discussion of how to tidy up after a drug death -- "lay her out in the street and by morning she's just another hit and run." Finally, "Slipaway" takes the mood back down as the moonlighting Springsteen delivers a delightfully impenetrable mumble (ending with a wry "tramps like us..."), while Reed half sings, half yowls a lament for the love that's gone away.

It's a breathtaking piece of music, although the studio version is actually topped by the disheveled, but incredibly vicious (no flowers), take found on the same year's Take No Prisoners live album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Street Hassle 1978 Arista 11:00
Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-1980 1980 Arista 11:00
Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology 1992 RCA 11:00
The Wild Side: Best of Lou Reed 2000 BMG International 11:00
NYC Man: The Collection 2003 RCA 11:00
The Squid and the Whale [Music from the Motion Picture] 2005
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Ultra Records 10:55
Playlist: The Very Best of Lou Reed 2008 Playlist 11:01
Kitsune Tabloid 2009 Kitsuné
The Essential Lou Reed 2011 Legacy / RCA 11:00
The Sire Years: Complete Albums Box 2015 Rhino / Sire 6:59
The RCA & Arista Album Collection 2016 Legacy / RCA 13:17