With the sad passing of Lou Reed, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the multiple links of Reed’s work to Algren. The most well known is, of course, Walk on the Wild Side, which drew its title from Algren’s 1956 novel.
However, Reed also mentioned Algren in 1992, when he said, There was nothing in those songs that I hadn’t read about in books or seen in movies. Man With the Golden Arm had been out for years before I wrote “Heroin.” When people started yelling, I thought, “Go take after Nelson Algren, for Christ’s sake.”
Reed also brings up Algren in his live version of Street Hassle, where he 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’.”