This Lou Reed article was written by Lucas Jones, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Nick Roseblade
The 1970s was a decade of musical discovery for Lou Reed. Part retaliation to the music of the time and part inspired by, whether it was the Dylanesque Coney Island Baby, the glam rock inspired Rock ‘N’ Roll or the experimental Heavy Metal Machine – Lou Reed’s 70s output was definitely hit and miss.
Continuing along the themes of inspiration and retaliation Street Hassle is very much Lou Reed’s two fingers up to the New York punk movement. With stripped back arrangements and rhythm and blues instrumentals rebelling against the rebel punk movement, Street Hassle is also Lou Reed at his most confessional, critiquing himself as a failure in light of the commercial and critical failures post-Berlin.
The album starts off with a large helping of glam rock on “Gimmie Some Good Times”, in which Lou Reed appears to be having a conversation with himself in a surreal exchange between him and an imaginary fan seemingly mocking his past. It is clear from the opening track that Street Hassle is not going to be an album of optimism.
Addressing the heavy themes of life, death and failure throughout, the album is a collection of mid-tempo grungy rock songs underscored with an emotional brutality and a level of vulnerability never shown by the elusive Reed in any of his previous work.
Despite alluding to the failures of his immediate discography, Street Hassle’s opening four tracks are a real return to form. Reed delivers his most raw performance on “Street Hassle” – with a little help from Bruce Springsteen- which is arguably one of Lou Reed’s greatest ever songs in a rich discography that include “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Perfect Day”. A monologue that tells the story of somebody on the wrong side of the law, it is a truly brilliant soliloquy encompassing unobtainable love and devastating tragedy.
Street Hassle is Reed’s most ambitious album since his time in The Velvet Underground. It is not as creatively inspiring as Berlin, but it is still genuinely exciting and cements Lou Reed as a cult musical icon. It is compelling and raw, in complete contrast to the often-abstract lyrics and rounded sound of the punk scene of Sex Pistols and The Ramones. It is impossible to ignore and should be given the same iconic status that Berlin and Transformer have been afforded.