Guest Post No. 14: Andy Burns on Lou Reed’s ‘Dirty Boulevard’

Andy Burns is an important and new voice in pop music writing in Canada. He is also a very nice fellow. Officially, he is the Interactive Content Editor for SiriusXM Canada by day and by night Editor-In-Chief of the pop culture website, Biff Bam Pop! He is also the author of Wrapped In Plastic: Twin Peaks (ECW Press, 2015) and a forthcoming book on the film American Psycho (Auteur, 2016).
Everyone thinks of “Walk On The Wild Side” first. That’s the one. That bass line. Those “coloured girls” doot-doot-doing. Holly from Miami, F-L-A. Candy from out on the island. They were eclectic and eccentric and not exactly the folks you’d meet walking the main streets of New York City. Maybe the back streets.
You don’t think of “Walk On The Wild Side” first, though. You don’t think of Holly or Candy or Andy. You think of Pedro, who lived out of the Wilshire Hotel. The kid Lou sings about in “Dirty Boulevard”. The first single from Lou’s 1989 album, New York, that record his long play ode to the Big Apple.
Lou spent a good chunk of the 80’s making oddly New Wave-ish records; they were good ones: “New Sensations” and “Mistrial.” College radio played songs like “I Love You Suzanne” and “The Original Wrapper”. They fit. But they weren’t quite Lou.
New York is Lou. And “Dirty Boulevard” is its anthem. The grime and grit of the city just before it cleaned itself up. Got respectable. You can hear New York in those two guitars, intertwining in a way that hadn’t since Robert Quine left Lou’s band. You can hear it, cold and crisp in Fred Maher’s snare drum, a rat-a-tat-tat coming out of the chorus.
“Dirty Boulevard” has a chorus. It has hooks.You heard them playing on the radio, on more than just the college stations. Lou was on the cover of Rolling Stone. Lou went gold.
You listen. You dream of magic. And of flying away.
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