Street Hassle

Album: Street Hassle (1978)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is 11 minutes long and divided into three sections:

    Waltzing Matilda
    Street Hassle
    Slip Away

    The first part is joyful, with a string quartet playing as Lou Reed tells of two people who meet for a sexual encounter. The tone changes in the second section, which begins with somebody (a landlord, perhaps) discovering the girl dead and telling the guy he needs to get rid of her. His advice: dump her on the street, where it will look like a hit and run.

    In the third part, he ruminates on what just happened and tries, unsuccessfully, to make sense of it.
  • About nine minutes in, Bruce Springsteen does a spoken word part where he includes the line, "There're tramps like us who were born to pay," which is a reference to the lyrics of his song "Born To Run."
  • This dark tale is one of the more descriptive and mordant songs ever recorded, but Reed didn't think it was all that unusual in the context of art as a whole. "If this was a novel or a movie, this stuff would be no big deal," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1978. "But in rock and roll, the parameters you're allowed to work in are so horrifyingly narrow. If you do anything other than pure, surface optimism, you seem to come off as intrigued with the dark, murky, kinky, down side of existence. It's just a little realism.

    I think it's fine and dandy that people enjoy themselves and they're happy and everything, but to constantly paint that picture leads to a general dullness on the part of the listener. He's just shocked when he finally gets to the reality of it all and finds out that he's been lied to."
  • Reed considered the Street Hassle album a continuation of his work with the Velvet Underground. "It's the album everybody had given up on me ever doing," he said.
  • Simple Minds recorded this for their 1984 album Sparkle In The Rain. "We loved the street poetry of Lou Reed," their frontman Jim Kerr said. "Simple Minds worked in the light, but The Velvet Underground certainly worked in the dark. You need night as well as day, and their music was of the seamier side of life, although there was still tremendous heart in it."
  • This was used in the 2005 movie The Squid And The Whale. It also appears in the skateboarding video Baker 3. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alex - Mansfield, OH

Comments: 5

  • Alex from Mansfield, Ohincredibly well written song, also used in the groundbreaking skateboarding video baker 3 mind u
  • Ross from Brooklyn, Ny"Wishin' won't make it so..." I think.

    Amazing indeed -- a fave and among his best work. The cello line, the suite, Springsteen, and lines like:

    Some people got no choice and they can never find a voice
    To talk with that they can even call their own
    So the first thing that they see that allows them the right to be
    Why they follow it
    You know what it's called? Bad luck.

    Just nails me.
  • Aaron from Peoria, Ilsongfacts is wrong. there are 3 parts to this song. the first is a woman with a male escort. the second covers a drug overdose. the third is metaphysical and enscones the first two. and springsteen sings all of the following: "well hey(man), that's just a lie, it's a lie she tells her friends. 'cause the real song, the real song where she won't even admit to herself
    the beatin' in her heart. It's a song lots of people know. It's a painful song
    a little sad truth but life full of sad songs
    penny for a wish but wishin' won't make you a soldier. With a pretty kiss for a pretty face
    can't have its way. Y'know tramps like us, we were born to pay."

    this is after 'born to run' and meant to be the ugly, other side that he chose to to turn away from.

  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiBruce Springsteen was in the studio with Reed while recording this song, he sings the line "Y'know tramps like us, we were born to pay." Bruce didn't want his name credited on the album.
  • John from Cleveland, OhThis song is amazing.
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