Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side

Song Review by

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."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Transformer 1972 BMG 4:15
Walk on the Wild Side & Other Hits 1975 RCA 4:12
Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed 1977 RCA 4:12
Rock and Roll Diary: 1967-1980 1980 Arista 4:12
Times Square 1980
Original Soundtrack
RSO 4:12
No Image 1983 RCA
Wild Child [Pair/RCA] 1987 Pair 4:30
Retro 1989 BMG / Sony Music Distribution 4:10
Sounds of the Seventies: 1973 1990
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 4:12
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Priority Records
Between Thought and Expression: The Lou Reed Anthology 1992 RCA 4:13
A Retrospective 1993 RCA 4:13
Storytellers [Nectar] 1994
Various Artists
Import 4:14
No Image 1994
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd.
No Image 1995 Camden International
Every Song Tells a Story 1995
Various Artists
Shock Media 4:08
Rock On 1973: Diamond Girl 1996
Various Artists
Rock On 4:12
Different Times: Lou Reed in the '70s 1996 RCA 4:13
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Adventures In Music
Ultimate Rock 'N' Roll Collection [EMI] 1996
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution
Club Verboten 1997
Various Artists
DCC Compact Classics 4:14
70's New Rock 1997
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 4:14
Rockin' 70's [BMG] 1997
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 4:12
Hits of the 70's [Columbia River] 1998
Various Artists
Valmark 4:13
The Number Ones: Rock It Up 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 4:12
Time in a Bottle 1998
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 4:14
Spirit of America [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Sound of the Suburbs [#1] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:10
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Telstar TV Records 4:12
Where Were You When the Fun Stopped? 1999 EMI Music Distribution 4:10
Time in a Bottle: Mellow Rock Classics 1999
Various Artists
Delta Distribution 4:14
The Definitive Collection 1999 Arista 4:13
Very Best of Lou Reed 2000 BMG International 4:15
American Classics [Import] 2000
Various Artists
Shock 4:12
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1973 2000
Various Artists
Buddha Records 4:15
The Wild Side: Best of Lou Reed 2000 BMG International 6:07
City Rocks: New York 2000
Various Artists
Cityrocks 4:16
Walk on the Wild Side: Hits of the Seventies 2001
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 4:13
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1970-1974 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 4:15
A Year in Your Life: 1973, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Definitive 4:14
The Ultimate Jukebox Hits of the '70s, Vol. 3 2001
Various Artists
Collectables 2:33
Jukebox Hits of the '70s [Collectables] 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 4:12
40 Years of Jukebox Hits: The 50's, 60's, 70's & 80's 2002
Various Artists
Collectables 2:33
Golden Collection 2002 BMG 4:11
NYC Man: The Collection 2003 RCA 4:11
The Platinum & Gold Collection 2004 BMG Heritage / RCA 4:13
Time 100: Music of Our Lives 1960-1980 2004
Various Artists
WEA International 4:13
No Image 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 4:13
NYC Man: Greatest Hits 2004 BMG / BMG International 4:12
Then: Totally Oldies - Classic Rock 2005
Various Artists
Varèse Vintage / Varèse Sarabande 4:14
Classic Rock Ballads [Crimson] 2005
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:12
The Songwriter Collection 2006
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 4:14
Collections 2006 Legacy / Sony BMG 4:13
Absolute Rock Ballads Classics, Vol. 2 2006
Various Artists
Eva 4:11
Lost Vagueness 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 4:11
Playlist: The Very Best of Lou Reed 2008 Playlist 4:14
Greatest Hits [Steel Box Collection] 2008 Commercial Canada / Sony Music Distribution 4:11
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson [Music from the Film] 2008 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:53
Sounds of the 70's Generation 2008
Various Artists
Destra 4:09
The Pop Years: 1972-1973 2009
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:14
The Collection: The Hits of 1973 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:12
The Pop Years: The 70s 2010
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 4:14
I Love Papa 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music / Sony Music Distribution 4:14
The Essential Lou Reed 2011 Legacy / RCA 4:11
Pure... Drive 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:12
Now That's What I Call Classic Rock Hits 2012
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 0:00
20 Feet from Stardom [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] 2013
Original Soundtrack
Columbia 4:13
Oh Yes We Can Love: The History of Glam Rock 2013
Various Artists
Universal 4:14
The RCA & Arista Album Collection 2016 Legacy / RCA 16:54
Acoustic '70s [Warner] 2017
Various Artists
Rhino / Warner Music
100 Hits: Supersonic 70s
Various Artists
Demon Music Group / DMG TV 3:53
100 Hits: The Best Rock & Power Ballads
Various Artists
100 Hits / Sony Music 3:54
100 Hits: The Best Seventies Album
Various Artists
100 Hits / DMG 3:54
70s U.S. Playlist
Various Artists
Crimson 4:14
Massive Hits!: Rock
Various Artists
EMI Gold 4:14