Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22. Lou Reed, "Perfect Day" (1972)


Here's one truly that moves in mysterious ways—I've been aware of it ever since I was aware of Transformer, my first real introduction to Lou Reed, but it wasn't until I saw the way it was used in the movie Trainspotting that I came to embrace it (it later became a memorably star-studded BBC promo, and frequently covered elsewhere as well, but I think the original is still the best). On its face it is hilarious, a croaking monotone Lou Reed barely getting over the swooning orchestra he reclines on so luxuriously, with a swelling Liberace by way of Ferrante & Teicher hammering on a grand piano at the bridge that sends it swirling to the heavens. The theme? Remembering the good times through a haze of bitterness. "I thought I was / Someone else, someone good." The good times may be saccharine, the bitterness arch, but it remains a place we likely all know. Reed plays it straight on every measure and that's the key to the irony—if, indeed, there is a shred of irony in this at all. As likely as not the irony is imposed by the listener, by you and me, made rattling uncomfortable and awkward by the straightforward plainspokenness and a concomitant unwillingness to, er, feel the feelings. The things that constitute this perfect day—drinking Sangria in the park, feeding animals in the zoo, then later a movie too—are so unexpected, so homely, so pretty, and so right, that you just have to laugh in recognition. Or bawl your eyes out, depending on the mood. And then listen again to make sure you got it all right. I can't blame anyone for trying to figure out how this even works at all, let alone works so well.

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