The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10

Lou Reed: Great Lyrics and Jukebox Hits

Reed describes these 10 songs as the cream of his "mental jukebox," from songs he loved growing up to ones he discovered later. All reflect the flab-free aesthetic he perfected first with the Velvet Underground, then as a solo artist. "One of the beautiful things about rock is the no-kidding-around," he says. "I wanted to get a sense of closeness, like William Burroughs. That's asking for trouble: Who could beat Uncle Bill? But there was a way you could: in a rock song."







Listen: Lou Reed's Top Great Lyrics and Jukebox Hits

  • 1.
    "Smoke From Your Cigarette" | Lillian Lech & Mellows, 1955

    Lillian Leach has the most beautiful smoky voice, like a femme fatale. And the tempo is so slow. Even though it is doowop, the record transcends it. They had a male lead singer, but he was smart enough not to sing this.

  • 2.
    "Angel Baby" | Rosie and the Originals, 1960

    I love the stumbled beat and the out-of-tune guitar. It's teenage lust at its peak. Warhol played this constantly at the Factory, with Edith Piaf and Maria Callas.

  • 3.
    "The End of the World" | Skeeter Davis, 1962

    If there is a better bar song, I'd like to know what it is.

  • 4.
    "I Touch Myself" | Divinyls

    This captures a whole different world of being in love than these other songs.

  • 5.
    "Save The Last Dance For Me" | The Drifters, 1960

    [Co-writer] Doc Pomus was getting married. He had polio, he's in his wheelchair, and his friends were dancing with his wife-to-be. He started writing on a place card: "You can dance, you can carry on." Doc's daughter gave me the place card. You will never hear this song the same way after knowing that.

  • 6.
    "The Wanderer" | Dion, 1961

    I always loved that guy-group thing. "The Wanderer" – "I tear open my shirt and show 'em Rosie on my chest" – is hard to beat. Isn't that a weird title from some white guy in the Bronx? That would be a dream. He's not going to wander past the A train.

  • 7.
    "Hello Mary Lou" | Ricky Nelson, 1961

    It's the James Burton guitar solo. [Guitarist] Robert Quine once made me a tape of all of the Burton solos from Ricky Nelson's records. Burton had this great way of sliding into each one. When he played with Elvis Presley, it got buried in the big band, the gospel choir and the 14 banana-and-bacon sandwiches.

  • 8.
    "Ooby Dooby" | Roy Orbison and Teen Kings, 1956

    He's known for the great ballads, but this is rockabilly at its best. Roy Orbison is the real Ricky Nelson here. The other side, "Go Go Go," has a great guitar break, like the white version of a Chuck Berry solo. A dead aim – two fast rockabilly songs on the same record.

  • 9.
    "Foot of Pride" | Bob Dylan, 1983

    That's the song I picked to do at Bobfest [in New York in 1992]. I'd been listening to it almost every day for two months. It's so fucking funny: "Did he make it to the top? Well, he probably did and dropped." There are so many verses, it was impossible to learn. G.E. Smith, who was playing with me, turned the pages. There is a lot of anger here. It's not the Three Stooges.

  • 10.
    "Mother" | John Lennon, 1970

    One of the greatest songs ever. It has straight-out-of-the heart feeling about a filial relationship, done in the simplest way, with the simplest language possible. It breaks your heart – a very brave recording. When I was touring Europe recently, we did "Mother." It was fun going for the primal note.