Stories Behind Classic Songs, Part 4

1) The characters in ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ are actual persons

One of the great mysteries in the history of censorship – or rather, lack thereof – is how Walk on the Wild Side ever received airplay back in 1972 when it was released. And I mean real airplay, not just being featured in a few obscure DJs’ playlists as to shock the listeners. No, Lou Reed’s single went all the way up to #16 in the US charts and even #10 in the UK ones. It basically is what made Reed a star in the 70s – the lead single off his second album, Transformer, which we all know was his most successful one to date.


Jackie Curtis

“So what’s the big deal?” might the 2016 listener ask. “It’s a song that explicitly talks about things such as transsexuality, drugs and oral sex.” will the 1972 listener respond. “It even features the lyric ‘But she never lost her head/Even when she was giving head’” will he add to accentuate his point. What’s great in retrospect though is to find out that everything Reed is singing about actually happened. All the characters are real persons and all their actions just a few more slices of that artsy weirdness that characterized the Warhol Factory they hanged around at. Holly who plucked her eyebrows and shaved her legs is Holly Woodlawn, a transgender Puerto Rican actress that starred in Warhol movies Trash and Women in Revolt. Candy Darling is the same protagonist as the one from Velvet Underground’s Candy Says, another transgender actress known for starring in those two movies. Little Joe refers to Joe Dallesandro, a sex symbol of the time’s gay subculture and the protagonist in Heat. Joe Campbell is nicknamed Sugar Plum Fairy and his most famous role is in Nude Restaurant. And finally, Jackie Curtis sang, wrote and acted throughout her life; her lipstick, glitter, bright red hair and ripped dressed said to be an influence on glam rock.

Joe Dallesandro, 2.3.1970

Joe Dallesandro

2) Oasis’ break-through single was written in 10 minutes

Don’t you love it when the jam that you play to warm-up for recording an actual song ends up being your first classic hit? That’s exactly what happened to Oasis back in 1993 at a recording session. They were originally set to record I Will Believe, but take after take proved to be unsuccessful. They couldn’t capture what they really wanted. Engineer Dave Scott believes the song was simply not right for them, calling it “shoe-gazer shit” when relating the experience. So in lack of ideas and direction, the band remembers a little groove that they got into right before the sessions began. That one sounded more rock ‘n’ roll at least. The groove begins to take shape, with all 5 members getting into it. Satisfied with what they’ve got so far, Noel rushes into the back room to write down the chords and a set of lyrics. He imposes himself to do that within 10 minutes – and succeeds.


The same Dave Scott recalls that the track was not even remixed. What was recorded in that day became Supersonic on that same day. Although later Oasis singles would chart higher than #31, it is no mean feat to achieve that with your very first one. I Will Believe ended up a B-side to Supersonic, 20 years later to be included in the deluxe edition of the single’s home album, Definitely Maybe. And the rest is history – they only got bigger and bigger from that point on.


Supersonic single artwork

Oasis only stopped playing Supersonic live the day they broke up; and Noel has over the years cited it as his favorite own composition.


Categories: Stories Behind Classic Songs

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27 replies

  1. Two great stories, Ovidiu. I knew all about Reed and “Walk On The Wild Side” but the Oasis info was new to me. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pity Oasis didn’t spend more time being creative as in my eyes they will always be Beatles “wannabees” and are vastly over rated in the broader musical scale of things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Huh. I never really got the “Beatles wannabees” tag attributed to them – I mean, besides the obvious musical and lyrical references, which are intentional anyway, I don’t think they have that much in common, to be honest. I don’t think The Beatles ever rocked as hard as Definitely Maybe, bar a couple of tracks.


  3. That was my gateway Oasis tune – hadn’t realized it was so spontaneous!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ironically, it’s only nowadays that “Walk on the Wild Side” is being censored, which is weird seeing how racy society has become. Oftentimes, the “giving head” line is replaced by another line from the song when you heard it on classic rock stations in the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ovidiu, not really that surprising Walk on the Wild Side wasn’t censored. Nobody had good enough speakers to really understand what he was singing. In the words of The Shangri-Las, we knew he was bad but not evil. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You did your homework on “Walk on the Wild Side!” If you haven’t read it, I recommend “Popism: The Warhol Sixties,” written (or co-written) by Andy himself. It’s a great insider account of The Factory in the ’60s, with lots of good stuff on Reed and the Velvets.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with kindadukish on Oasis. But the Reed and VU influence is worth all the study we can give. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. great write up. I was aware of the Lou Reed story but I didn’t know “Supersonic” was written in 10 minutes. It’s still one of their best tunes!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wasn’t aware that Supersonic was a 10 minute job – would it be controversial if I said maybe they should have spent that long composing all their songs?

    I did have Definitely Maybe when it was released, but was never fond of anything else they released, and never really ‘got’ why folks were mad about them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is just a delightful. I have always adored Lou Reed’s music. So interesting. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hmm. Never quite got into Oasis. I’m too casually acquainted. I think some of us are naturally attracted to things that seem alien to our own culture: The kind of culture Oasis channel might seem strange and alien (and therefore attractive and intriguing) to an American, say, but as a Brit, the Manchester Moaners are all too familiar and mundane, I’m afraid 😉

    Agree about Reed, though, and you have pretty marvellous taste 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  12. In my more conservative tastes and love of music I somehow missed these guys. Can’t say I’m terribly disappointed. I did warn you that I might be a little bit too conservative but then what would you expect from someone called mommermom? 😄 I’ll be back and keep trying till I find something I like!! Another informative post. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  13. When Lou Reed died there was a fair amount of media conversation about it. Not quite to the David Bowie level but there was some media attention. And it was amusing to hear some of the national morning show hosts talk about enjoying “Wild Side,” either oblivious to its lyrics or just trying to sneak one in. As to Oasis, they had a few hits in the US but were never quite as big here as they themselves thought they were. “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” probably their biggest hits here. And good songs BTW. Me, I always found it amusing to read about their antics in the rock press.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. They were still rubbish, 8 number 1s or not. Derivative, simplistic and rapidly ran out of creative ideas, witness the abominations produced since Oasis split, not a single spark of real quality.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nothing quite beats the old tune of Lou Reed ~ thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I was 13 when Walk on the Wild Side was released and I loved it. I had absolutely no idea what it was really about – but for a young teen it was exciting and liberating 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. My like is for Lou Reed! I dislike Oasis intensely so I didn’t read that bit! 😉


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