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Lyrics Lou Reed/Velvet Underground "Heroin" (1966)

Nicomorphinist

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It has been more than 50 years since the song was first written and performed . . . what I am thinking is that going through it a line at a time would be useful be it for clarifying any cultural references (after all, there are a lot of people who not only were not born back then, but their parents were not either.) There are lines and parts of line that if one asks 20 people about it, they will get 36 answers . . . the hope here is to get as close to all 36 as possible. Then overall analysis . . . I will start, with four lines actually:

I don't know
Just where I'm going

Any number of insights the singer has about what the heroin is going to do to him or her in the next few hours -- or days, months, years
It could be a dirty hit, it could be milk sugar, it could be exactly what for what the user hopes.

But I'm going to try
For the Kingdom if I can

This could be Heaven, it could be something else entirely; further down it either gets clearer or forks off into a number of possibilities
Kingdom is capitalised -- or isn't it?



Song Meaning -- I take Reed at his word that this is an anti-drugs song; he said that he was nonplussed and troubled when people would tell him that they shoot up to it . . .
 

Quere

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Oh god telling Lou Reed that you shoot up heroin while listening to 'heroin' I don't know what it is but it just seems so corny

I love the velvet underground so much tho. They were so ahead of their time
 

Nicomorphinist

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Coz I makes me feel
Like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein


Shooting up, of course . . . the Spike, could be something phallic here, or maybe not

And I tell ya that things just aren't quite the same

All of us who know about narcotics know all about the Bang, which is the effect of the mu receptors being agonised, this full agonist going from zero to 12-30 per cent very rapidlythe synthe . . .

When I'm rushin on my run

The physical (rush) and psychic effects of this allergic effects

And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know


Anterograde amnesia?
 

JTemperance

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I love the song. Lyrically it perfectly captures what the actual allure of heroin is and what the cost. Musically, it is quite good too, but it just has never seemed to "musically replicate the experience of shooting dope." The fast tempo thudding and feedback of the song's peak just don't seem similar to the peak of a heroin shot, for me at least.

My guess is that they were probably more influenced by the experience of shooting Methedrine, and it bleeds through. Lou Reed never really had much first-hand experience with heroin (though he did with downers and alcohol, which is a theme in his early 80s albums), but he was a notoriously committed "A-Head," as were other band members.

They put it to good use -- by contrast, "White Light White Heat," "I Heard Her Call My Name," and "Sister Ray" really do provide a musical translation of the speed experience IMO, from the initial rush to the tense blabbering to the sordid social comedown.
 
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