Certain Songs #979: Lou Reed – “New Sensations”

Album: New Sensations
Year: 1984

Fading in like a motorcycle coming over the crest of a distant hill, “New Sensations” feels like one of the most important songs of Lou Reed’s solo career.

Or at least it is to me. I’m not normally a lyrics guy, but when a song has as great of a set of lyrics as “New Sensations” does, it’s almost impossible for me — even 21-year-old-me in 1984 — not to notice. The message, to me, was that you’re never to old to experience new sensations.

Which seems almost stupidly obvious all these years and countless new sensations later, but in your early 20s, you have no idea how wide open the future really is, because you’re already starting to attempt to narrow it — picking jobs and friends and majors and lovers — and assuming that’s what the rest of your life is going to be. Which, of course, it never ever is.

That’s part of it, even if I didn’t realize it then. What I did realize is how much I loved this verse, my favorite Lou Reed lyric outside of the first verse of “Some Kinda Love.”

I want the principles of a timeless muse
I want to eradicate my negative views
And get rid of those people who are always on a down

I mean. Who doesn’t want that stuff? The principles of a timeless muse — that’s literally all any creative person could ever want, right? (And a theme he explores during the next song on the album, “Doin’ The Things That We Want To.”)

On the chorus, Lou’s guitar makes curlicues around Fernando Saunders near-funky basslines, and that’s pretty much as sophisticated as “New Sensations” gets, but in the end, when the a lone synth rises and the background singers join Lou in singing the title over as the song rides away back over the other horizon, it’s gorgeous and majestic – the result of a timeless muse.

“New Sensations”

“New Sensations” performed live in 1984

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