The Story Behind The Song: ‘Perfect Day’, Lou Reed’s supposed love letter to heroin
The Lou Reed written track ‘Perfect Day’ may well be the perfect song, one of the greatest love songs that has ever been penned. However, many people are adamant that Reed’s true muse for the track was not about his romantic partner and, in fact, was actually about the true love of his life during this period, heroin.
The material, upon first listen, sounds like an innocently beautiful effort and, if you were unaware of this theory about the song’s true meaning, then it would never spring to mind. The accusation about the track being centred around heroin is one that has been around since the birth of its inception with Reed even attempting to extinguish the theory all the way back in 1973, but his words fell on deaf ears. “That’s a lovely song. A description of a very straightforward affair,” he told NME a year after the release of Transformer.
Reed’s denial of the track being about heroin is backed up by many who, over time, have claimed that the former Velvet Underground had no reason to lie about what the meaning of the song when, in comparison, he famously released a track titled ‘Heroin’ with his former band—a factor which proves he clearly had no issues with wearing his outside influences on his sleeve.
The theory was given a second wind in 1996 when, in Danny Boyle’s masterpiece Trainspotting, an overdose scene in the British classic film that follows a bunch of heroin addicts in Edinburgh—a collaboration which only added fuel to the fire of the rumour.
However, this interpretation, according to Reed himself, is “laughable”. In an interview in 2000, he stated, “No. You’re talking to the writer, the person who wrote it. No that’s not true [that the song is about heroin use]. I don’t object to that, particularly whatever you think is perfect. But this guy’s vision of a perfect day was the girl, sangria in the park, and then you go home; a perfect day, real simple. I meant just what I said.”
The following year Reed would release Berlin, a project which told the story through a concept album about two junkies who have fallen in love in the city, an album which is likely to have been when the rumours about ‘Perfect Day’ originated from and those rumours would never quite go away.
Whatever the true meaning of the song, in reality, it doesn’t really have overbearing importance. All that does matter is how you personally interpret the lyrics, a message which is a large part in the song’s beauty and how easy it is to make the song feel personal as we all envisage our own ‘Perfect Day‘.