Random Jukebox: Lou Reed’s Satellite Of Love

Sometimes you just have to roll with the selections of the random jukebox, and today it zipped back to the glamtastic 1970s for one of my very favourite tunes by Lou Reed, who died five years ago today. On a personal note, I remember taking our final bows on the last night of performing on stage in the 2013 stage version of Fawlty Towers when the news came in.

Covered by everyone from Beck to Eurythmics to Morrissey, this is Satellite Of Love by Lou in ‘72.

Voyeurism, for some reason, makes for great music. Every Breath You Take and, say, Picture This are both thoroughly disturbing, yet universally recognised as superb songs, for instance.

And Lou Reed’s transcendental space ballad Satellite Of Love, though not quite as creepy, makes a hit out of spying on a cheating lover. Though at first the song seems relatively innocent, Reed singing “I love to watch things on TV,” the bridge reveals his true intentions: “I’ve been told that you’ve been bold with Harry, Mark and John.”

A weird topic for a song, to be sure, but what a line.

The vocals never get to what happens next, though. Nonetheless, Reed makes this paranoid scenario into a beautiful song with brilliant piano melodies, handclaps, fingersnaps and a soaring backup vocal thanks to one David Bowie. In fact, if you didn’t know what the song was about, the damn thing might just move you to tears.

Reed’s solo career was given an almighty boost when Team Bowie, enjoying huge success as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, decided to work with Reed on his second solo album Transformer, with the the wonky melodic magic of Satellite Of Love originally written during his final act as mainman of erstwhile proto-punk noise merchants The Velvet Underground.

Bowie and Ronson (with a little help from producer Ken Scott) gave their New York anti-hero a new lease of life with spectacular results. Being the most accomplished musician in the room, Ronno played both piano and recorder on this track.

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Over thirty years later, dance DJ outfit Groovefinder got their Dab Hands on the track and inexplicably, the song became a huge club hit in the summer of 2004, giving Reed only his second solo Top 10 single in the UK after Walk On The Wild Side (plus the all-star BBC version of Perfect Day in 1997, giving him a Transformer triumvirate in Britain).

You can hear a lot more of The Dame’s emotional high-end backing vocals in the mix too. Epic.

Steve Pafford

 

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