Perfect Day (Lou Reed song)

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"Perfect Day"
Perfect Day by Lou Reed (US single, double side-A).png
One of label variants of the US single
Single by Lou Reed
from the album Transformer
A-side"Walk on the Wild Side"
ReleasedNovember 17, 1972
RecordedAugust 31, 1972
StudioTrident (London)
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Lou Reed singles chronology
"Walk on the Wild Side" / "Perfect Day"
"Satellite of Love"

"Perfect Day" is a song written by American musician Lou Reed in 1972. It was originally featured on Transformer, Reed's second post–Velvet Underground solo album, and as a double A-side with his major hit, "Walk on the Wild Side". Its fame was given a boost in the 1990s when it was featured in the 1996 film Trainspotting and after a star-studded version was released as a BBC charity single in 1997, reaching number one in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Norway. Reed re-recorded the song for his 2003 album The Raven.

Recording and composition[edit]

The original recording, as with the rest of the Transformer album, was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson (who also wrote the string arrangement and played piano on the track).

The song begins with a short melodic introduction of multiple broken chords, consisting of Fm, Gm and Bbm (The Tonic). Its verse is a circle of fifths progression in Bb minor. The song then moves into the chorus, which is written in the parallel major key to the verse. The song has a sombre vocal delivery and a slow, piano-based instrumental backing.

The song was written after Reed and his then fiancée (later his first wife), Bettye Kronstad, spent a day in Central Park. The lyric is often considered to suggest simple, conventional romantic devotion, possibly alluding to Reed's relationship with Bettye Kronstad and Reed's own conflicts with his sexuality, drug use and ego.[2]

Some commentators have further seen the lyrical subtext as displaying Reed's romanticized attitude towards a period of his own addiction to heroin. This popular understanding of the song as an ode to addiction led to its inclusion in the soundtrack for Trainspotting, a film about the lives of heroin addicts.[3] However, this interpretation, according to Reed himself, is "laughable". In an interview in 2000, Reed stated, "No. You're talking to the writer, the person who wrote it. No that's not true [that the song is about heroin use]. I don't object to that, particularly...whatever you think is perfect. But this guy's vision of a perfect day was the girl, sangria in the park, and then you go home; a perfect day, real simple. I meant just what I said."[4]

In other media[edit]

The song has featured in commercials such as an AT&T advertisement which ran during the 2010 Olympics,[5] and an advertisement by Sony for the launch of the PlayStation 4 in October 2013, two weeks before Reed's death.[6] The song has also appeared incidentally in TV shows including Fear the Walking Dead,[7] the season 1 finale of The Mist miniseries, Gotham[8] and Doom Patrol.[9]

The song was featured in the trailer for the 2013 horror film You're Next.

A cover of the song was featured in the 2018 Russian film Leto.

The song was featured in the 2020 TV series, Brave New World based on Aldous Huxley's book.[10][11]

In 2019, the song was used at the beginning of See Episode 5 Plastic.

In 2020, the song was performed by a choir of past and present cast members of Saturday Night Live on the show's April 11 episode as a tribute to the show's longtime music producer Hal Willner, following his death of COVID-19 earlier in the week.[12]

In 2021, the song was used at the end of The Stand Episode 6 The Vigil. It was also used in the Season 6 Episode of Legends of Tomorrow, "Silence of the Sonograms".

In 2021, the song was used in the trailer for the film Spencer.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[13]
sales since 2009
Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[14]
sales since 2004
Gold 400,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Duran Duran version[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Duranduran perfectday.jpg
Single by Duran Duran
from the album Thank You
B-side"The Needle and the Damage Done", "Come Up and See Me (Make Me Smile)"
ReleasedMarch 13, 1995 (1995-03-13)
LabelEMI, Capitol
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Duran Duran
Duran Duran singles chronology
"Too Much Information"
"Perfect Day"
"White Lines"
Music video
"Perfect Day" on YouTube

A cover version of "Perfect Day" was the first single from the Duran Duran covers album Thank You. It was released in the United Kingdom on March 13, 1995, and reached number 28 on the UK Singles Chart the same month.[15][16] The cover was also released to US radio on May 23, 1995.[17]

The song featured a rare appearance by Duran Duran's first drummer Roger Taylor. He also appeared in the music video and in a promotional appearance on Top of the Pops. The video was filmed in February 1995 by director Nick Egan, and first aired in March. It shows clips of the band performing, interspersed with surreal images.

The single was released in several versions, including numerous different remixes of the title track and other Duran Duran songs. In addition to the single and the Thank You album, the song also appeared in Duran Duran's Singles Box Set 1986–1995, released in 2004. On Duran Duran's episode of Behind the Music, Reed described the Duran Duran version as being potentially the best rerecording of any of his songs.

Kirsty MacColl and Evan Dando version[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Single by Kirsty MacColl and Evan Dando
from the album Galore
ReleasedJuly 1995[18]
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Kirsty MacColl, Boz Boorer
Kirsty MacColl singles chronology
"Perfect Day"

In 1995, British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl and American musician Evan Dando recorded the song as a duet. It was included as one of two new tracks on MacColl's compilation album Galore and reached No. 75 on the UK Singles Chart.[19]

MacColl has described the song as "glorious and tragic at the same time".[20] Speaking of her collaboration with Dando, she told Steve Harris in 1995: "I met Evan a couple of years ago and we sort of talked about possibly doing something together. When I was recording the new tracks for [Galore], I thought "Perfect Day" would be a really good song to do as a duet [and that] he would be the ideal person to sing it with me." MacColl was initially unsure of how to contact Dando, but decided to record the backing track in anticipation of being able to add his contribution at a later date. By coincidence, Dando phoned MacColl two days after the backing track was recorded to let her know he was performing in London with his band The Lemonheads and he agreed to provide vocals on the track while in the UK.[21]

BBC corporate film and charity release[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Perfect Day single cover - 1997.jpg
Single by various artists
ReleasedNovember 17, 1997
LabelChrysalis, BBC
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Steve Kelynack, The Music Sculptors; Mark Sayer-Wade & Tolga Kashif & Simon Hanhart

In 1997, the BBC made a version of the song with advertising agency Leagas Delaney.[22] It showcased the BBC in a lengthy corporate promotion of its diverse music coverage which was broadcast on BBC channels, in cinemas, and at major events organised by the BBC such as the Eurovision Song Contest 1998. It featured Lou Reed himself and other major artists in what the Financial Times described as "an astonishing line-up of world class performers".[23] In reference to the licence fee, the film ends with the message "Whatever your musical taste, it is catered for by BBC Radio and Television. This is only possible thanks to the unique way the BBC is paid for by you. BBC. You make it what it is." This message appears over the repeated words "You're going to reap just what you sow" which The Guardian described as "a none too subtle message: keep writing the cheque."[24] In response to accusations from commercial competitors that the corporation had wasted vast sums on the film it was revealed that each artist received a "token" £250, which was at the time the minimum pay for a performance on BBC.[23]

Prompted by huge public demand, the track was released on November 17, 1997,[25] as a charity single for Children in Need, and Reed commented, "I have never been more impressed with a performance of one of my songs."[26] It was the UK's number one single for three weeks, in two separate spells. The record contributed £2,125,000 to the charity's highest fundraising total in six years,[27] and, as of November 2016, has sold 1.54 million copies.[28] The release featured two additional versions of the song: one entirely sung by female performers, one by male performers. The BBC also produced a Christmas version of the accompanying music video.

In Ireland, the song was a huge success, remaining at number one for seven weeks and becoming 1997's Christmas number one. The single also topped the Norwegian Singles Chart for seven weeks in late 1997 and early 1998, spending 17 weeks on the chart in total.[29] Elsewhere in Europe, it reached number four in Finland, number six in the Netherlands, number seven in Flemish Belgium and number 10 in Iceland.[29][30] It was also a top-thirty hit in Austria, New Zealand and Walloon Belgium.[29]

The song has not been digitally released to digital music platforms as the "single [is] unusable again in a commercial context due to the specific nature of the clearances for Children In Need at the time".[31]


Performers in order of appearance; parentheses indicate mute appearance, and dividers indicate verses/sections.[32]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Belgium (BEA)[53] Gold 25,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[54] Platinum  
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] 2× Platinum 1,540,000[28]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.


Following the success of the "Perfect Day" music video, the BBC produced three further similar campaigns. The first, Future Generations, in December 1998, did a similar multi-celebrity montage with favourite BBC children's programmes. The second, called Shaggy Dog Story, featured various comedians and comic actors telling a long-winded shaggy dog story,[citation needed] with each one sharing a line or phrase. A second, shorter shaggy dog story, entitled Mammals vs. Insects, was also broadcast on January 4, 2000. Seventeen years after "Perfect Day"'s release, the BBC produced a campaign for their new music division where 27 musicians (labelled "The Impossible Orchestra") covered the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows". The only person to appear in both campaigns is Sir Elton John.

The cover was parodied on a 1997 special Harry Enfield and Chums, as well as by Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

The single inspired Sony Music to release a various artists compilation album, Perfect Day, in early 1998. It reached number 7 in the UK Compilation Chart.[56] It featured Reed's original version of the song instead of the Various Artists version.

Music Live 2000[edit]

A BBC live television event in 2000, which consisted of music programs around the clock, ended in another round-robin performance of "Perfect Day". Although watched by millions, the recording of the show that was released as a single was not a chart success, reaching only number 69 in mid-June 2000.

This line-up included Rolf Harris and a beginning and ending performance from Lou Reed himself.

Susan Boyle version[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Single by Susan Boyle
from the album The Gift
ReleasedNovember 8, 2010
LabelSyco/Columbia Records
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Steve Mac
Susan Boyle singles chronology
"I Dreamed a Dream"
"Perfect Day"
"I Know Him So Well"

Scottish recording artist Susan Boyle covered the song on her second album The Gift and also released it on November 8, 2010, as a single.

Conflict with Lou Reed[edit]

In September 2010, Susan Boyle had to cancel a performance on America's Got Talent at the last minute. She had planned to sing "Perfect Day", but two hours before the show, she was told that Lou Reed had intervened, refusing her permission to perform his song and to include it on her forthcoming album The Gift. As she and her choir did not have time to rehearse another number, she decided to cancel her performance.[57] A couple of days later, representatives of Reed stated that he had nothing to do with the decision and that it was just a licensing glitch.[58]

A couple of weeks later, Reed agreed not only to let her include the song on The Gift,[59] but also to produce her music video of the song. It was shot on the banks of Loch Lomond and premiered on November 7, 2010.[60][61]

Live performances[edit]

On November 19, 2010 she performed the song on Children in Need.[62] She also performed this again at the 82nd Royal Variety Performance, performed on the December 9, 2010.


Chart (2010) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[63] 32
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[64] 124

Vatican tweet[edit]

Soon after Reed's death in 2013, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican's culture minister, made news by tweeting lyrics from the song:

Oh, it's such a perfect day
I'm glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on

As the song is widely interpreted by listeners to be drug-related, the cardinal later clarified that he did not condone drug use.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (October 27, 2013). "Lou Reed: Six of his greatest songs". The Guardian. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  2. ^ Bockris, Victor (1995-08-01). Transformer: The Lou Reed Story. Simon & Schuster, August 1, 1995. (ISBN 978-0684803661)
  3. ^ Nick Walker. "Blurred vision at the Beeb". The Independent. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  4. ^ "Lou Reed - Talks about songwriting. Radio interview in 2000" – via
  5. ^ Barrett, Annie. "AT&T Olympics Commercials: Pick Your Trip",, February 18, 2010
  6. ^ Guy Longworth (October 15, 2013). ""Perfect Day" TV Spot Debuts, 30 Days Til PS4". Playstation. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  7. ^ Matthew Chernov (September 20, 2015). "Fear The Walking Dead Recap: Episode 104 – Not Fade Away". Variety. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  8. ^ "Gotham: "Damned If You Do..." Review". IGN. September 21, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  9. ^ "Doom Patrol Episode 6 Review: Doom Patrol Patrol". Den of Geek. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  10. ^ "Brave New World review: Love, death and betrayal mark Episode 7". Winter is Coming. July 22, 2020. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (July 14, 2020). "'Brave New World' Is All Dressed Up With No Place to Go". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 22, 2020.
  12. ^ Jem Aswad, "‘Saturday Night Live’ Pays Loving Tribute to Longtime Sketch Music Maestro Hal Willner". Variety, April 11, 2020.
  13. ^ "Italian single certifications – Lou Reed – Perfect Day" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 5, 2020. Select "2014" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Perfect Day" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  14. ^ "British single certifications – Lou Reed – Perfect Day". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  15. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music Week. March 11, 1995. p. 33. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Duran Duran". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  17. ^ "Selected New Releases" (PDF). Radio & Records. No. 1095. May 19, 1995. p. 31. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  18. ^ "Perfect Day (CD single) - Kirsty MacColl".
  19. ^ "KIRSTY MACCOLL & EVAN DANDO | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company".
  20. ^ "Oh, it's such a perfect song". The Independent. November 9, 1997.
  21. ^ "Kirsty MacColl interview - Part 3" – via
  22. ^ Garrett, Jade (December 5, 2000). "Leagas Delaney exec blasts BBC". The Guardian. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  23. ^ a b Dunkley, Christopher. "Hard sell of the fast cut", Financial Times, October 10, 1997
  24. ^ Mulholland, John. "Such a perfect way to sing the praises of a licence fee; John Mulholland on how Lou Reed's anthem for doomed youth became the ultimate sales gimmick", The Guardian, September 27, 1997
  25. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music Week. November 15, 1997. p. 29. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  26. ^ "Children to reap what Perfect Day sows", BBC News, 21 November 1997.
  27. ^ "Perfect Day for children", BBC News, 12 October 1998
  28. ^ a b Myers, Justin (November 17, 2016). "The biggest selling Children in Need singles ranked". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  29. ^ a b c d "Various Artists – Perfect Day". VG-lista. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  30. ^ a b "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (25.12. 1997 – 01.01. 1998)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). December 27, 1997. p. 47. Retrieved October 3, 2019.
  31. ^ "Pop Music Activism - We Tried". Pop Music Activism. Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  32. ^ Kutner, Jon; Leigh, Spencer (2005). 1,000 UK Number One Hits (E-book) (2013 ed.). London, England: Omnibus Press. p. 1160–1161. ISBN 978-0-85712-360-2.
  33. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  34. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  35. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day" (in French). Ultratop 50. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  36. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 14 no. 52. December 27, 1997. p. 17. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  37. ^ "Various Artists: Perfect Day" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  38. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  39. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Perfect Day". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  40. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 2, 1998" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  41. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  42. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  43. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  44. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day". Singles Top 100. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  45. ^ "Various Artists – Perfect Day". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  46. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  47. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1997" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  48. ^ "Top 100 Singles 1997". Music Week. January 17, 1998. p. 27.
  49. ^ "Year in Focus – Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 1998" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 15 no. 51. December 19, 1998. p. 8. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  50. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1998" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  51. ^ "Best Sellers of 1998 – Singles Top 100". Music Week. January 16, 1999. p. 7.
  52. ^ "Najlepsze single na UK Top 40–1998 wg sprzedaży" (in Polish). Archived from the original on June 4, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  53. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – singles 1998". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  54. ^ "IFPI Norsk platebransje Trofeer 1993–2011" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  55. ^ "British single certifications – Various Artists – Perfect Day". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  56. ^ "Chart Log UK". Retrieved September 22, 2015.
  57. ^ NME: Lou Reed made Susan Boyle cry over 'America's Got Talent' refusal Published 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27
  58. ^ "Lou Reed - Reed Not To Blame For Susan Boyle's Perfect Day Snub". Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  59. ^ NME: Lou Reed lets Susan Boyle cover 'Perfect Day' after all Published September 22, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2010
  60. ^ NME: Lou Reed creates 'intimate' video for Susan Boyle's 'Perfect Day' cover Published November 7, 2010. Retrieved December 27, 2010
  61. ^ "YouTube". May 6, 2016. Archived from the original on May 6, 2016.
  62. ^ "Susan Boyle - Perfect Day - Children in Need - 19th November 2010" – via
  63. ^ "Susan Boyle – Perfect Day" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  64. ^ "Chart Log UK: Chart Date 20.11.2010". Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  65. ^ Pulella, Philip (October 28, 2013). "Vatican's 'culture minister' tweets Lou Reed song". Reuters. Retrieved November 19, 2014.

External links[edit]