“Street Hassle” – Lou Reed – Arista – 1978
In our second mini episode, we explore the titular track from Lou Reed’s 1978 “comeback” album. This is a song rich in narrative and evocative imagery, running over 11 minutes long and effectively capturing a moment in time in New York City from Reed’s unique perspective. It’s a ghost of a song, the effects of which can still be felt in the city of its setting, even though its events can no longer be experienced.
Here, we parse through the three parts of this song, discuss its historical context, make connections and comparisons to another ’70s New York rock odyssey, consider the impact of Lou Reed’s songwriting on future generations of musicians, and get a little sentimental about the New York of yore, even though we totally weren’t there.
Episode notes and postscript corrections
- Hi, hello, and welcome to another mini episode! Life comes at you fast, and while we work on a real-length episode and also do all the stuff we do in our professional lives, we thought we’d hit you with this snack-sized bit.
- And, yeah, don’t worry — we’re definitely doing Velvet Underground and/or more solo Lou Reed in the future.
- There’s a lot of background info about Lou and VU that we won’t bore you with here. There’s this cool thing called Google if you want to learn more.
- See our further reading links below to read up on the long, contentious relationship between Lou Reed and Lester Bangs.
- Here’s some science stuff about binaural recording.
- This song is long and intricate AF, so put your headphones on and buckle up.
- Shoutout to Lou for subverting gender norms in the Waltzing Matilda section!
- Turn your volume WAY up and tell us if you agree or disagree with Carly about the beginning of the Street Hassle section sounding reminiscent of Christine McVie.
- The Factory was wild!!! Here’s some more info.
- Pop over to our master playlist on Spotify for a handful of songs to explain that “this song is in a bright major key even though the lyrics are dark!” thing.
- If you want to feel shook at how city life remains still pretty much the same in 2018 as it did in 1978 and as it did in 1903, then you should definitely read this essay, Metropolis and the Mental Life.
- Do we have any artists, currently, who are disciples of Lou Reed? We’re not sure, but we loaded up our master playlist with some influences. And, as always, we’d love to hear what you think.
“Street Hassle” music video | Date unknown, more like a short film soundtracked by the song, but still cool
Live at an unknown location | 2003
Live at the Ritz | 1986
Live at the Capitol Theatre | 1984
Lou Reed: A Life (DeCurtis bio) | 2017
Lou Reed Found His Voice Again on “Street Hassle” | AV Club (October 2016)
Babe, I’m On Fire: The Making of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle | Uncut (October 2016)
Looking Back at Lou Reed’s Famously Contentious Relationship With Rock Critic Lester Bangs | Vulture (October 2016)
What Lou Reed Taught Me | NPR (October 2013)
Q&A: Lou Reed | Rolling Stone (November 1987)
Lou Reed’s Heart of Darkness | Rolling Stone (March 1979)
Street Hassle review | Rolling Stone (April 1978)
“Street Hassle” lyrics | Genius