Certain Songs #976: Lou Reed – “The Gun”

Album: The Blue Mask
Year: 1982

Unlike John Cale’s “Gun,” which starts off loud and only gets crazier, Lou Reed’s similarly-titled-but-not-even-remotely-the-same song “The Gun” slowly tiptoes up behind you like a burglar in a dark alley.

Spare and spooky, “The Gun” is one of the most harrowing songs of Lou Reed’s entire solo career.

Shifting back and forth from the first and third person, Lou not only warns us about the guy carrying the gun, he ends up inhabiting him as well.

Get over there
Move slowly
I’ll put a hole in your face
If you even breathe a word
Tell the lady to lie down
I want, ah, you to be sure to see this
I wouldn’t want you to miss a second
Watch your wife

“Watch your wife.” With Lou’s guitar continually trying to walk out of that alley without being noticed, and Robert Quine’s guitar making unexpected startling noises, “The Gun” never bothers to pretend that everything is going to end up OK. Drummer Doane Perry adds to the feeling of dislocation by not even bothering to play a straight beat, instead, randomly smashing his crashes and snare drum.

At the end, as the tension becomes almost unbearable Lou issues one last warning, as if we already weren’t in the middle of it.

Don’t touch him, don’t touch him
Stay away from him, he’s got a gun

But we never truly find out how it ends, because “The Gun” leaves it to our imagination without ever raising itself beyond a whisper, while perfectly setting us up for the primal scream that immediately follows it.

“The Gun”

2 Responses to “Certain Songs #976: Lou Reed – “The Gun””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    I recall reading somewhere, maybe the liner notes for “Between Thought and Expression,” that there were some early takes of this song where Lou’s extemporaneous dialogue got too dark for even Lou to stomach. I both do and don’t very much want to hear those renditions.

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    Oh wow. Yeah, I’d totally love to hear those.

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