Writer: Lou Reed
Producers: David Bowie and Mick Ronson
|Players:||Lou Reed — vocals, guitar
Mick Ronson — guitar
Ronnie Ross — saxophone
Herbie Flowers — bass
John Halzey — drums
The Thunder Thighs — background vocals
|Album:||Transformer (RCA, 1972)|
Throughout his long and unpredictable career, Lou Reed has had only one top 20 hit, “Walk On The Wild Side.” Peaking at Number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S., it remains his most successful and enduring single to date.
The song's mainstream acceptance reached an ironic peak when it was featured in television commercials for Honda scooters. The commercials featured Reed himself, as well.
The song's lyrics, a paean to the '60s underground culture of Andy Warhol, stirred up quite a bit controversy in the U.S. However, not a ripple was made over at the BBC, apparently because programmers didn't understand phrases like “giving head.”
Reed had retreated to England after his involvement with the creatively exciting but commercially dismal Velvet Underground in the late '60s. He didn't embark on his solo career for almost two years after the group disbanded.
Transformer, his second album, proved to be Reed's breakthrough to mainstream success. Marrying his dark themes and minimalist songs to accessible pop structures, it brought him the commercial visibility he had struggled to find with the Velvet Underground.
Much of the record's pop sheen belongs to Reed disciple David Bowie's production.
A longtime Velvet Underground fan, Bowie played a part in developing Reed's image during this time as well. The former avant-garde leader became a bleached-blonde, black fingernail-polished hedonist who, indeed, flaunted walking on the wild side. Bowie, who used them to greater commercial success in his own career throughout the '70s, picked up on all of those qualities, in addition to his flashy homosexual showboating.