[Review] Lou Reed: Street Hassle (1978)

Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, back on top? It was a fairy tale come true.

Kronomyth 10.0: Anti-Heroes.

The infelicities of the forlorn are a Lou Reed specialty. Discussing the best way to ditch a dead body (“Street Hassle”), musing on the advantages of an ethnic change (“I Wanna Be Black”), Reed’s Everyman is blissfully ignorant that he’s out of options and any choice he makes will be the wrong one.

At the time of its release, many hailed Street Hassle as a new masterpiece. I’ve always seen it as more of a monsterpiece: a Frankenstein of ambition, confrontation and self-evisceration that one regards with a sense of horror and awe. Recorded in Germany, Street Hassle has a lot in common with David Bowie’s Heroes, although Reed opts for a rougher feel, going so far as to split the record between live and studio performances (the live performances are evident only in a smattering of applause at the beginning/end of the song). The album’s centerpiece is the three-part title track, which some have called an urban triptych (interestingly, an edited version of the song tells a different story). That song and the old VU track “Real Good Time Together” recall Reed’s glory days with his old band.

I used to own this album on cassette, and maybe it was the binaural recording technique at work, but it sounded awesome in my car. The headphones seem to bring the album’s ugliness to light. As a result, “Wait” and “Shooting Star” aren’t quite the joyride I remember. Street Hassle doesn’t assuage the gnawing sense that Lou Reed is playing you for a fool on the carnival ride version of Dante’s Inferno, but if it gives you a thrill and makes you hold your sweetheart a little tighter, well, anything worth having is worth a little hassle.

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Original LP Version

A1. Gimmie Some Good Times (3:15)
A2. Dirt (4:58)
A3. Street Hassle (11:00)
a. Waltzing Matilda (3:00)
b. Street Hassle (2:10)
c. Slipaway (2:10)
B1. I Wanna Be Black (2:52)
B2. Real Good Time Together (3:19)
B3. Shooting Star (3:09)
B4. Leave Me Alone (4:44)
B5. Wait (3:14)

All songs written by Lou Reed.

The Players

Lou Reed (guitars, bass, piano, vocals), Michael Suchorsky (drums) with Marty Fogle (amplified saxophone), Michael Fonfara (piano on B1/B3), Steve Friedman (bass on B4), Stuart Heinrich (guitar on A3, background vocal on B4), Angela Howard (background vocals), Jo Anna Kameron (background vocals), Genya Ravan (background vocals), Aram Schefrin (string arrangements), Bruce Springsteen (spoken voice on A3), Christine Wiltshire (background vocals). Produced by Lou Reed and Richard Robinson; engineered by Heiner Friesz, Manfred Schunke, Rod O’Brien; mixed by Manfred Schunke.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in February 1978 in the US (Arista, AB 4169), the UK (Arista, SPART 1045), Australia (Arista, L37205/TC-AL-4169), Germany (Arista, 1C 064 60445) and the Netherlands (Arista, 5N 058 60445) with innersleeve; reached #89 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette on October 22, 1991 in the US (Arista, AC-8499).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the UK (Arista/BMG, 262 270-217).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc on March 19, 2007 in Japan (Arista, BVCM-37745).
  4. Re-released on newly remastered elpee in 2016 in Europe (Arista/Sony, 88985349071S1).

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