Street Hassle

Music by Lou Reed, images from a number of Warhol’s films.

Ellen Willis writes in 1979, a year after “Street Hassle” was released:

Though Lou Reed rejected optimism, he was enough of his time to crave transcendence. And finally — as “Rock & Roll” makes explicit — the Velvets’ use of a mass art for was a metaphor for transcendence, for connection, for resistance to solipsism and despair. Which is also what it is for the punks; whether they admit it or not, that is what their irony is about. It may be sheer coincidence, but it was in the wake of the new wave that Reed recorded “Street Hassle,” a three-part, eleven-minute anti-nihilist anthem that is by far the most compelling piece of work he has done in his post-Velvets solo career. In it he represents nihilism as double damnation: loss of faith that love is possible, compounded by denial that it matters. “That’s just a lie,” he mutters at the beginning of part three. “That’s why she tells her friends. ‘Cause the real song — the real song she won’t even admit to herself.”

Previously on PWHNY.

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