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.