[Review] Lou Reed: Sally Can’t Dance (1974)

Lou Reed and half a Rhinoceros make a record, but it’s the lack of inspiration that serves as the elephant in the room.

Kronomyth 5.0: Blondes don’t have more fun.

Lou Reed’s followup to the brilliant, harrowing Berlin is a half-baked mess covered in Steve Katz’ frosting. You get the sense, listening to this record, that Reed showed up with a couple of songs from a half-finished concept album (“Ride Sally Ride,” “Sally Can’t Dance”), a leftover from his last sessions (“Baby Face”) and walked into the wrong recording studio, high as a kite. Waiting in the studio are his touring rhythm section and half of Rhinoceros, who do their best to rescue the record from its own ennui, but ultimately fail as listeners are inevitably drawn to the collapsed star in the room, Reed.

[You can view of video of a Lou Reed interview from 1974 on youtube.]

Sally Can’t Dance isn’t a complete disaster. “N.Y. Stars” (imagine Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Underfoot” mixed with The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now”) and “Kill Your Sons” are wonderfully edgy, and “Sally Can’t Dance” is a fine companion to “Walk On The Wild Side.” That said, “Animal Language” is handily the stupidest song he’s ever written. In some ways, Sally Can’t Dance set the stage for the future: high highs mixed with low lows, all given the same bored treatment by Reed without a trace of paternal warmth, as though he had completely divorced himself from the creative process and was just reading words off a page.

On Berlin, a pilot light of compassion remained underneath Reed’s burned-out reporter. But Reed doesn’t give a sh*t about Sally or Billy. You shouldn’t either. Together with his next record, Metal Machine Music, Sally Can’t Dance represents a creative nadir for Reed—or maybe it’s creative self-destruction. This also gets my vote for the worst Lou Reed album cover.

Original LP Version

A1. Ride Sally Ride (4:00)
A2. Animal Language (3:00)
A3. Baby Face (5:01)
A4. N.Y. Stars (3:59)
B1. Kill Your Sons (3:35)
B2. Ennui (3:37)
B3. Sally Can’t Dance (4:07)
B4. Billy (5:01)

All songs written by Lou Reed.
Horns arranged by Lew Soloff with Reed, John, Weis, Fonfara and Katz.

CD reissue bonus tracks
9. Good Taste
10. Sally Can’t Dance (single version)

The Players

Lou Reed (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar on B4), Michael Fonfara (all keyboards including mellotron on “Ennui,” background vocals), Whitey Glan (drums), Prakash John (bass and background vocals), Danny Weis (guitar, tambourine and background vocals) with Richie Dharma (drums on B1/B2), Paul Fleisher (sax on B4), horn players (David Taylor, Lou Marini, Trevor Koehler, Jon Faddis, Alan Rubin, Alex Foster), Steve Katz (harmonica), Joanne Vent (background vocals), Michael Wendroff (background vocals), Doug Yule (bass on B4). Produced Steve Katz & Lou Reed; recording engineered by Mike Stone; remix engineered by Ralph Moss; recordist: Dave Whitman.

The Pictures

Cover concept by Dennis Katz. Cover art by David Byrd. Art direction by Acy Lehman. Front cover illustration from a photo by Mick Rock. Back cover illustration of René de la Bush from a photography by Lou Reed.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, 8-track and cassette in August 1974 in the US and Italy (RCA, CPL1/CPS1-0611), the UK (RCA, APK1 0611), Australia (RCA, VAL1-0454/CPK1-0611) and Japan (RCA, RCA-6249) with innersleeve; reached #10 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in the US (RCA, 0611-2-R).
  2. Re-packaged on 2LP in 1983 in France and the Netherlands (RCA, NL-37725) with I Can’t Stand It.
  3. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2001 in the US (RCA, 69383-2) with 2 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on February 22, 2007 in Japan (RCA, BVCM-37729) with 2 bonus tracks.
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered Blu-Spec compact disc on December 9, 2009 in Japan (BMG Japan, BVCP 20019) with 2 bonus tracks.

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