Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lou Reed's Halloween Parade



The Halloween Parade that Lou Reed sings about on his 1989 New York disc had been left for dead. Neither 9/11 nor Hurricane Irene in 2011 could stop the parade. Huricane Sandy in 2012 did bring about its death...or do we speak of the parade's death prematurely? Now risen from the dead through a crowd funding effort, the Greenwich Village mainstay has come back to life. But is it the same Halloween Parade that Lou Reed sang about?

Today, the Halloween Parade makes its way up New York's 6th Avenue with crowds numbering in the millions lining the route and joining in at will. It is the largest Halloween event in the United States with more than 50 000 participants and an estimated 100 million watching at home on TV or streaming worldwide.

Back in 1974, the parade began on West Street, winding its way through Greenwich Village before it concluded in nearby Washington Square. The brainchild of artist/puppeteer/mask-maker Ralph Lee, the parade quickly outgrew its humble if flamboyant origins. By 1985 the Halloween Parade had become a colossal spectacle though its founder would leave the helm following the 1985 edition.

In Halloween Parade, written at the height of the AIDS epidemic that had ravaged the gay community in Greenwich Village, Reed laments the loss of many of the faces and people who had made Greenwich Village a vibrant community. A community that began to stand tall with the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Halloween Parade is the counterpoint or the sad conclusion to Reed's Walk on the Wild Side from 1972. The song is also a reminder that Reed was a powerful lyricist with a social conscience. Halloween Parade like many of Lou Reed's better songs translates sublimely as poetry.

The New York album was a sketch of Lou Reed's hometown in the late 1980s. Rolling Stone in its review of New York hailed it as, "fierce, poetic journalism." New York also reunited Reed with former Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker who played percussion on two tracks.

At the time, Reed insisted that the album be listened to in its entirety as if one was reading a book. New York was considered by critics to be his best effort in years and made its way to a lot of critics top ten lists for 1989. The album also received nods as being one of the best albums of the 1980s.

Following Lou Reed's passing on October 27, 2013 critics and fans alike returned to his music. Spotify saw a 3000 percent increase for streams of Lou Reed's solo and Velvet Underground music. In the United Kingdom The Guardian lists Halloween Parade as one of the six best songs in Reed's oeuvre.


Halloween Parade

There's a downtown fairy singing out, "Proud Mary"
As she cruises Christopher Street
And some Southern Queen is acting loud and mean
Where the docks and the badlands meet

This Halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you

There's a Greta Garbo and an Alfred Hitchcock
And some black Jamaican stud
There's five Cinderellas and some leather drags
I almost fell into my mug

There's a Crawford, Davis and a tacky Cary Grant
And some homeboys lookin' for trouble down here from the Bronx

But there ain't no Hairy and no Virgin Mary
You won't hear those voices again
And Johny Rio and Rotten Rita
You'll never see those faces again

This Halloween is something to be sure
Especially to be here without you

There's the Born Again Losers and the Lavender Boozers
And some crack team from Washington Heights
The boys from Avenue B, the girls from Avenue D
A Tinkerbell in tights

This celebration somehow gets me down
Especially when I see you're not around

There's no Peter Pedantic saying things romantic
In Latin, Greek or Spic
There's no Three Bananas or Brandy Alexander
Dishing all their tricks

It's a different feeling that I have today
Especially when I know you've gone away

There's a girl from Soho with a t-shirt saying, "I Blow"
She's with the "Jive Five 2 plus 3"
And the girls for pay dates are giving cut rates
Or else doing it for free

The past keeps knock, knock, knocking on my door
And I don't want to hear it anymore

No consolations please for feelin' funky
I got to get my head above my knees
But it makes me mad and mad makes me sad
And then I start to freeze

In the back of my mind I was afraid it might be true
In the back of my mind I was afraid that they meant you

The Halloween parade
See you next year,
At the Halloween parade





Rest in Peace Lou Reed. March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013.




— Mark Butkus