Scratch The Surface :: Lou Reed, Street Hassle

(Album artwork: Does it indeed affect our listening experience, and if so, how? Scratch the Surface takes a look at particularly interesting and/or exceptional cover art choices.)

Expectations. We all have them, for better or worse, and with music these expectations are often heightened.

Lou Reed was supposed to be the second coming. Based on his Velvet Underground genius, some expected him to be the next "Bob Dylan," a voice for a new generation, and while Berlin was strong and Transformer hit on most cylinders, the work Reed put out in the seventies rarely met the expectations of his audience. True, he had his fans, and select songs that could stand up to others of the period, but I think a good portion of his fans expected something else. Then you throw Sally Can't Dance into the mix, not to mention Metal Machine Music Pt. 1, and it's just a rebellious slap in the face to "others" expectations. A real punk rock move before punk rock even knew what it was.

I love Lou Reed, and I love most of Reed's early albums, but I think expectations from others ultimately led to his downward soul searching spiral...that is until he found it with Street Hassle.

Street Hassle is about acceptance and power. It's Reed finally acknowledging how much a self-parody he had become. With Street Hassle, Reed had finally both recognized and accepted his prior roles, facades and incarnations, and was now willing to face them head on. Simply put, Lou Reed was finally ready to make a "Lou Reed" album.

Street Hassle's LP cover explains it all, exuding arrogance, confidence, and fear. From the distressed title font letting you know it's not perfect, that he's not perfect, to the "self portrait" with the smug shooting star glimmer in his eye. He has a new found realization and acceptance of his own self-destruction with a "fuck you" mentality. And how does he start this battle off…by sacrificing one of his own children, "Sweet Jane."

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