Last week when I stumbled across that corny 1974 Bowie TV commercial for David Live, I spied another oddity of the same vintage: A 30-second TV spot for Lou Reed’s ultra sleazy Sally Can’t Dance album!
Wait, what? A Lou Reed TV commercial from 1974? At the height of his speed-shooting, bleached-blonde black nail-polish bi/gay persona? That’s right, apparently someone thought it was a good idea to push the Rock-n-Roll Animal’s career over the airwaves before it peaked. It’s not like a stone cold FREAK such as Lou Reed was going to get on American television otherwise was it?
As Lester Bangs noted of Reed around this time:
“Lou Reed is my own hero principally because he stands for all the most fucked up things that I could ever possibly conceive of. Which probably only shows the limits of my imagination.”
Let’s not forget that Reed often had quite the imagination for fucked up things. I feel sorry (not really) for the unsuspecting TV viewer who bought Sally Can’t Dance based on this rather innocuous spot only to find songs about electroshock therapy (”Kill Your Sons”), a girl who “took much meth and can’t get off of the floor” (the title track) and of course, “Animal Language” which is QUITE LITERALLY about a dead dog and a dead cat that want to fuck, but can’t, so they decide to shoot up a fat man’s sweat (lyrics here, for your convenience).
More from Lester Bangs:
“Lou Reed is the guy that gave dignity and poetry and rock ‘n’ roll to smack, speed, homosexuality, sadomasochism, murder, misogyny, stumblebum passivity, and suicide, and then proceeded to belie all his achievements and return to the mire by turning the whole thing into a monumental joke ...”
Although Lou Reed has always been dismissive of Sally Can’t Dance, due to his own, er, passive involvement in its creation (there are stories about Reed being so fucked up that he had to be propped up in the studio to record his vocals) to my mind it’s one of his BEST albums. In many respects, Sally Can’t Dance, I’d argue, is the very quintessence of the amibsexual, druggy Reed thang of the early to mid-1970s. It even presages Bowie’s Young Americans white-boy funk phase by a year or so.