Saturday, April 21, 2012

Song #166 of 9999 - Perfect Day by Lou Reed

Song #166 of 9999

Title: Perfect Day
Artist: Lou Reed
Year: 1972
Album: Transformer

"Walk on the Wild Side" and "Satellite of Love" garner most of the attention where Transformer is concerned and rightfully so. The former is a flat-out masterpiece and the latter cheeky and forward-thinking. As clever as the two lead singles are, it's "Perfect Day" that seems to have the lasting appeal. Twenty-five years after its release, the original appeared in a hit film (1996's Trainspotting) and a cover version recorded by an "astonishing line-up of world-class performers" topped the charts in the UK in 1997 as it raised money for the charitable organization Children in Need. Covered at least a dozen times, even Lou Reed himself re-recorded the song for his 2003 album The Raven.

Produced by David Bowie, "Perfect Day" assumes a bit of the grandiose fervor Bowie brought to "Life on Mars" the previous year. A circle-of-fifths chord progression meanders its way through the key of Bb Minor, borrowing here and there from the parallel major before settling on the dominant (i-IV-VII-III-VI-iv-V). That the progression confuses some (see the unfortunate Wikipedia article) is not unexpected as the intro commences with the dominant F Major and gives the strong impression that F is the key (I-iv rather than V-i) before proceeding down its windy road. When the chorus arrives, it comes with a thrilling mode change to Bb Major (I-IV-iii-IV/I-V-vi-V-IV-vi-V-IV) to support a soaring vocal.

Whether the song is about heroin or not doesn't really matter. If it is, it's absolutely brilliant ("It's a perfect day/I'm glad I spent it with you"); if it isn't, it's really lovely and sweet ("Just a perfect day/You made me forget myself"). Either way, it's a gem worth remembering and still sounds fresh after forty years.

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