Street Hassle (song)

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"Street Hassle"
Song by Lou Reed
from the album Street Hassle
Released February 1978
Genre Art rock
Length 10:53
Label Arista Records
Producer(s) Lou Reed, Richard Robinson

"Street Hassle" is a song recorded by Lou Reed for his 1978 album of the same name. It is 10 minutes and 56 seconds long and divided into three distinct sections: "Waltzing Matilda," "Street Hassle," and "Slipaway." Part one, "Waltzing Matilda," describes a woman picking up and paying a male prostitute. In Part Two, "Street Hassle," a drug dealer speaks at length about the death of a woman in his apartment to her companion. Part Three, "Slipaway," contains a brief, uncredited, spoken word section by Bruce Springsteen (from 9:02 to 9:39) and a dirge sung by Reed about love and death. It was recorded in E major.

On the live album Animal Serenade, Reed says: "I wanted to write a song that had a great monologue set to rock. Something that could have been written by William Burroughs, Hubert Selby, John Rechy, Tennessee Williams, Nelson Algren, maybe a little Raymond Chandler. You mix it all up and you have 'Street Hassle'."

Critics have described the song as being largely motivated by and representative of the end of Reed’s three-year relationship with Rachel Humphreys, a trans woman who died in 1990, likely of AIDS, and was buried in NYC's Potter's Field. Biographer Anthony DeCurtis summarizes the song as “something of a requiem for Reed and Rachel’s relationship.”[1] In a 1979 article for Rolling Stone, Mikal Gilmore refers to Rachel as the "raison d'être" for the entire album.[2]

“Street Hassle" was included in 2008's The Pitchfork Media 500: Our Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to the Present.

A snippet of the song is featured in the 1980 film, Up the Academy (which marked the screen debut of Ralph Macchio), and also during the last scene of the 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. Also released in 2005, the skateboard video Baker 3 plays "Street Hassle" extensively throughout the video.

Simple Minds covered the song in an abbreviated version on their 1984 album Sparkle in the Rain, using two verses (the first and third) from the "Waltzing Matilda" section and a verse from the "Slipaway" section.

Swedish artist Håkan Hellström's song "Street Hustle", from his 2013 album Det kommer aldrig va över för mig, bears many similarities to the song.

The Spacemen 3 song "Ode to Street Hassle" employs similar music.


  1. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony. Lou Reed: A Life. Little Brown, 2017.
  2. ^ Gilmore, Mikal. “Lou Reed’s Heart of Darkness,” Rolling Stone, March 22, 1979. 20.