Lou Reed’s Perfect Day: a poem about the essence of life

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Two different Americas. The first represented by The Beach Boys, by The Doors, by the dream of the never-ending Californian summer, by the ones supporting easy, free love. As if it’s easy to fall in love without consequences… an America represented by those who take drugs, passing the message that they do it as an act of awareness and spiritual growth, in order to open the doors of perception or to live shamanic experiences In the desert. And then there is another America. The one of those who look at the real life and depict it, without fake judgments. They just look at it. With honesty. A reality that is told us without makeup, because we are not afraid to see the dark side in each of us. The weakness, the fragility, the malice and the selfishness.

There is someone who is not afraid to tell us that love is also suffering, it is probable to meet wrong people and the feelings degenerate because they are not pure, because none of us can be said truly pure. There is someone who is not afraid to declare that, if they take drugs it is for desperation, for alienation, to destroy themselves, nothing to do with spiritual thoughts or guides. That person was Lou Reed. An artist able to explore the dark side of reality, the things that nobody talks about and nobody wants to talk about. The dark corners of life, the ones that each of us knows, even though we prefer to not enlighten them, in order to save our mask, our appearance, the place and the role that we have in society.

Lou Reed was able to place us all in front of a mirror, in a strong contrast to the hippie rhetoric of peace and free love that raged in California in those years. A deeply sensitive artist, who had touched the pain with his hand and saw the darkness with his eyes. Lou had fear of sleep because the darkness and loss of consciousness brought him back to the series of electroshock (a very common therapy back in the days) he received when he was teenager, to be cured by his alleged homosexuality. You may just analyze some of his albums to realize that the sensitivity of his sublime poetry come from the pain.

Perfect Day, the single released in November 1972 extracted from his second album Transformer, is simply the “perfect song”. The song that everyone would like to receive as a love message. The most beautiful song of that album and perhaps the most beautiful song by this artist.

You made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
Someone Good

These are the verses that I most adore of this immortal poem. It’s great to think that there is someone in the world who will take you to forget who you are and make you feel better. It reminds me of a phrase from Jack Nicholson’s beautiful movie Something’s Gotta Give, where at some point Jack says to Helen Hunt: “You make me want to be a better man”. The person to whom Lou Reed is talking in the song is Shelley, one of the most important women of his life since adolescence, the one that inspired some of the most beautiful songs in his first part of the career (including I’ll Be your Mirror).

Shelley was Lou’s first real love story, which lasted for the whole high school period. A very complex and psychologically intense story. Lou recalled, in some interviews, how beautiful those meetings were… going to get ice cream, going together to the zoo, seeing a movie. All the moment he tells us in the lyrics, thinking to how nice it is to enjoy the little pleasures of life, because we won’t have a second perfect day, as the sad melody and the cadence of the voice suggest. The day was perfect and must be perfectly immortalized, forever, in the memory and in the song.

The fruits of those moments will continue to be collected for a very long time, as he says in the last verse:“You’re going to reap just what you sow”. Behind a good harvest there is always hard work, simple but so difficult to put in place. It’s not easy to listen and listen, understanding the difficulties, the needs and the feelings of each other. Even more difficult is to put aside our selfishness, our ego and our fears, to give love and, in the meanwhile, learn how to receive it. The concept is deep and extensive, all the books in this world would not be enough to deepen it, and yet Lou can express it and synthesize it in few, unforgettable verses.

All the great artists owe something to Lou Reed. In the video below, produced by the BBC in 1997 and afterwards become a successful single with charity purposes, many of them join together to pay homage to this immortal poem and its creator.

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Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing. He is the author of “Trip among the notes. The Secrets of Musical Theory and Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

3 comments

  1. Good article, wrong reference, “You make me want to be a better man” is in “As good as it gets” and not in “Something’s gotta give”. Easy to spot as H. Hunt is not in the latter, although I noticed immediately because “YMMWTBABetterMan” is a line that I used a lot during my bachelor’s years.

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