Skip to main content

The Story Behind the Immortal Bass Line of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side (VIDEO)

Of all the tributes to, and stories about, Lou Reed over the past week, this is one of the most fascinating - even though it doesn't directly concern Reed himself, but rather Herbie Flowers, the legendary British bass player who created the immortal bass line that opens Reed's massive solo hit, Walk On The Wild Side.

When I first heard Walk On The Wild Side, it seemed the ultimate late night New York song: a transgender story (which apparently radio stations in the 1970s and since didn't even pick up on, despite the line, "Shaved his legs and then he was a she") featuring characters from Andy Warhol's Factory, which sounded as if it had been recorded at about 1 am in some smoky lowdown basement hangout in the East Village.

The video above reveals the immense influence of Herbie Flowers - who had worked with David Bowie, who produced Walk On The Wild Side and the Lou Reed album it came from, Transformer, on Bowie's own classic breakout single, Space Oddity.

Flowers, a jazz-trained bassist, created the fabulous bass line that hooks you into the Wild Side by combining a line on his double bass with a line on an electric bass guitar, one tenth (ten notes) above it.

Together, the resulting sound was unique - and created a loose yet vibrant, catchy yet subversive hook that set the scene for Reed's fabulous opening line, "Holly came from Miami, FLA..."

(The Holly in question is Holly Woodlawn, one of Warhol's Factory and movie "superstars" - a word Warhol coined.)

Watch the video and perhaps you'll be as surprised as I was to learn that the song was recorded in London, at Trident Studios, on a Monday morning - and Herbie Flowers was paid, apparently, two fees of £12, one for the double bass line and one for the bass guitar.

It still sounds like a smoke-hazed, late night New York bar to me.

One of the all-time great covers: from a Mick Rock photograph of Lou Reed.

Immense thanks to the blog No Treble - Nothing But Bass for this story - and to the BBC TV show, The One Show, for the video clip, courtesy of YouTube. And thanks to the huge influence of Andy Warhol on Lou Reed's music: I'm sure Reed would have been extraordinary without Warhol, but Warhol was a visionary who changed the way the world viewed art and life...and shopping.


Popular posts from this blog

The High Tower Apartments and The Long Goodbye

Photograph by Dwayne Moser. This beautiful apartment complex in Los Angeles is called the Hightower or High Tower Complex (the High Tower name refers to the central elevator, I believe), and was designed in 1935-1936 by architect  Carl Kay - and made famous in 1973 by my favorite film, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (see Why I Love Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye ). Although Altman used the building as Philip Marlowe's apartment in his somewhat post-modern Long Goodbye (the film plays with references to Old Hollywood and opens and closes with the song, Hooray For Hollywood ), the building has another direct connection to Raymond Chandler. It was apparently the inspiration for Chandler in his book, The High Window (the first Chandler novel I ever read), in which Chandler describes the residence of Philip Marlowe as being on the cliffs above High Tower Drive in a building with a fancy elevator tower. (Thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians Southern

Please Sign Up For Email Updates To This Blog And My Writing Workshops

The Malteste Falcon, 1941. For those of you wishing to keep up to date on my writing workshops at the Central Sierra Arts Council , the most efficient way is to sign up in the "Follow This Blog By Email" box in the right sidebar beneath the Buddha. You will then receive an email update every time I post to the blog, including any changes in times or dates or other details of the workshops (although I shall try not to mix things around). I would also greatly appreciate it if you would "Like" this blog on Facebook , by clicking on the "Like" button also beneath the Buddha. This lets you follow the Facebook page associated with this wesbite, , which frequently has additional content not included in the blog. Blade Runner, 1982, courtesy of artist Gavin J Rothery. In the meantime, the first Writing Workshop of the New Year will be on Saturday January 21st 2012 , at the Central Sierra Arts Council, 193 S. Washington Str

2012 Writing Workshops - From Pixar To Noir

WALL-E photograph: Copyright Pixar/Disney. Many thanks to everyone who came to The Magic of Pixar Writing Workshop today. I hope you enjoyed it - and I wish we'd had more time to explore the many themes of Pixar's films, not least a deeper examination of the Hero's Journey and how it relates to such movies as WALL-E and Finding Nemo.  I think, given the tremendous response - and requests - I will be presenting a second Magic of Pixar Wr iting Workshop, probably in February 2012.  We will look at different films - Up, especially, and Monsters, Inc - and how they relate to themes of childhood, aging and our deepest fears and emotions, as well as the sheer fun and excitement of the Cars movies. In the meantime, the first Writing Workshop of the New Year will be on Saturday January 21st and will have a Noir theme, exploring one of the most powerful and enduring genres of literature and movies - the heightened emotions, vivid characters, crackling dialogue