Lou Reed's first-ever hit single, after it peeled off the Transformer album in early 1973, "Walk on the Wild Side" is one of the most analyzed, discussed, and surprising hits of all time -- surprising because an unequivocal reference to oral sex passed unnoticed by even the most scissor-happy censor; analyzed and discussed because, if anybody ever needed a who's who to the New York art scene of the early '70s, "Walk on the Wild Side" was all they could ask for.
Upon a stage surely lit by flickering light and velvet shades, we are introduced to Hollywood Lawns (who "shaved her legs and then he was a she"), Candy Darling ("she never lost her head"), Joe Dallesandro (he "never once gave it away"), the Sugar Plum Fairy ("looking for soul food") -- for four delicious minutes, the Warhol circus parades past in all its garish glory, while the bass line slides like a monkey up a pole and the colored girls go "doo-doo-doo." It's one of the most recognizable refrains in modern music.
As for what the song's stars made of it all, Reed himself admitted he was a little nervous -- "I thought they were going to claw my eyes out. But when I got back to New York, Candy Darling came up to me and said she wants to make a 'Candy Darling Sings Lou Reed' album. That would be great."
The one song you can guarantee finding on every Lou Reed compilation since 1972, "Walk on the Wild Side" remains a staple of his live show and has made its mark in other ways, too -- Love and Rockets used it as the model for their 1989 hit "So Alive."