Perfect Day (Lou Reed song)

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"Perfect Day"
Single by Lou Reed
from the album Transformer
A-side "Walk on the Wild Side"
Released November 17, 1972
Recorded August 31, 1972 at Trident Studios, London
Genre Baroque pop, art pop, pop rock[1]
Length 3:46
Label RCA
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 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, that became the UK's number one single for three weeks. Reed re-recorded the song for his 2003 album The Raven.

A version by Duran Duran reached number 28 on the UK Singles Chart in 1995.

Recording and composition[edit]

The original recording, like 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 in its verse, which is a progression of major triads in descending perfect fifths, starting however on a minor triad. 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]

In other media[edit]

The song has featured in commercials such as an AT&T advertisement which ran during the 2010 Olympics,[4] and an advertisement by Sony for the launch of the PlayStation 4 in October 2013, two weeks before Reed's death.[5] The song has also appeared incidentally in TV shows including Fear the Walking Dead[6] and Gotham.[7] It was also covered in the 2017 TNT series Will.


BBC corporate film and charity release[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Perfect Day single cover - 1997.jpg
Single by Various Artists
Released November 17, 1997
Format CD single
Recorded 1997
Length 3:46
Label Chrysalis, BBC
Songwriter(s) Lou Reed
Producer(s) The Music Sculptors, Mark Sayer-Wade & Tolga Kashif & Simon Hanhart

In 1997, a version of the song was showcased by the BBC in a lengthy corporate promotion of its diverse music coverage which was broadcast on BBC channels and in cinemas. It featured Lou Reed himself and other major artists in what the Financial Times described as "an astonishing line-up of world class performers".[8] 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."[9] 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.[8]

Prompted by huge public demand the track was released on November 17, 1997, as a charity single for Children in Need, and Reed said, "I have never been more impressed with a performance of one of my songs."[10] 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,[11] and, as of November 2016, has sold 1.54 million copies.[12] 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.[13] Elsewhere in Europe, it reached number four in Finland, number six in the Netherlands, and number seven in Flemish Belgium. It was also a top 30 hit in Austria, New Zealand, and Walloon Belgium.

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".[14]


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


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 4 January 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.[15] 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.

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)"
Released March 13, 1995
Length 3:53
Label EMI, Capitol – DD 20
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 reached number 28 on the UK Singles Chart in 1995.

The song featured a rare appearance by Duran Duran's first drummer Roger Taylor. He also appeared in the video and in a promotional appearance on Top of the Pops.

The music 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.


Duran Duran:


Also credited:

Susan Boyle version[edit]

"Perfect Day"
Single by Susan Boyle
from the album The Gift
Released 8 November 2010
Length 4:31
Label Syco/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 8 November 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 didn't have time to rehearse another number, she decided to cancel her performance.[16] A couple of days later, representatives of Lou Reed stated that he had nothing to do with the decision and that it was just a licensing glitch.[17]

A couple of weeks later, Lou Reed agreed not only to let her include the song on The Gift,[18] but also to produce her music video of the song. It was shot on the banks of Loch Lomond and premiered on 7 November 2010.[19][20]

Live performances[edit]

On 19 November 2010 she performed the song on Children in Need.[21] She also performed this again at the 82nd Royal Variety Performance, performed on the 9 December 2010.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2010) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[22] 32
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[23] 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

Because the song is thought by some[who?] to be drug-related, the cardinal later clarified that he did not condone drug use.[24]

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 2016-10-07. 
  4. ^ Barrett, Annie. "AT&T Olympics Commercials: Pick Your Trip",, February 18, 2010
  5. ^ Guy Longworth (October 15, 2013). ""Perfect Day" TV Spot Debuts, 30 Days Til PS4". Playstation. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 
  6. ^ Matthew Chernov (2015-09-20). "Fear The Walking Dead Recap: Episode 104 – Not Fade Away". Variety. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  7. ^ "Gotham: "Damned If You Do..." Review". IGN. 2015-09-21. Retrieved 2016-10-07. 
  8. ^ a b Dunkley, Christopher. "Hard sell of the fast cut", Financial Times, 10 October 1997
  9. ^ 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, 27 September 1997
  10. ^ "Children to reap what Perfect Day sows", BBC News, 21 November 1997.
  11. ^ "Perfect Day for children", BBC News, 12 October 1998
  12. ^ Myers, Justin (17 November 2016). "The biggest selling Children in Need singles ranked". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  13. ^ "Various Artists - Perfect Day". Retrieved 1 September 2018. 
  14. ^ "Pop Music Activism - We Tried". Pop Music Activism. Retrieved August 22, 2018. 
  15. ^ "Chart Log UK". Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  16. ^ NME: Lou Reed made Susan Boyle cry over 'America's Got Talent' refusal Published 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27
  17. ^ "Lou Reed - Reed Not To Blame For Susan Boyle's Perfect Day Snub". Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  18. ^ NME: Lou Reed lets Susan Boyle cover 'Perfect Day' after all Published 22 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27
  19. ^ NME: Lou Reed creates 'intimate' video for Susan Boyle's 'Perfect Day' cover Published 7 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-27
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ " – Susan Boyle – Perfect Day" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  23. ^ "Chart Log UK: Chart Date 20.11.2010". Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  24. ^ Pulella, Philip (28 October 2013). "Vatican's 'culture minister' tweets Lou Reed song". Reuters. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 


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