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Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect’ Billboard Chart History

In his lifetime, the late Lou Reed charted 23 albums on the Billboard 200 chart, stretching back to his self-titled debut in 1972.

In his lifetime, the late Lou Reed charted 23 albums on the Billboard 200 chart, stretching back to his self-titled debut in 1972. 

The Grammy Award-winner’s most recent chart ink came with his collaboration album “Lulu,” with Metallica. It was released in 2011 and debuted and peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard 200 chart, immediately becoming Reed’s highest-charting album since 1974’s “Sally Can’t Dance” reached No. 10. (The latter is also his highest charting effort, overall.)

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“Lulu” was also Reed’s first charting album in more than a decade, following “Ecstasy” in 2000. It reached No. 183 on the tally.

Reed was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as part of the influential band the Velvet Underground, a group in which he earned five charting albums with on the Billboard 200. Its 1967 debut effort, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” — with its famed “peel slowly and see” banana cover by Andy Warhol — reached No. 171 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Reed charted fairly consistently from his debut in 1972 on through the current decade, with top 50-charting albums like “Transformer” (co-produced by David Bowie), “Sally Can’t Dance,” “Coney Island Baby,” “Mistrial” and “New York.” The latter album earned Reed a Grammy Award nomination for best rock vocal performance, male, in 1989.

Though Reed was a regular visitor to the Billboard 200 albums chart, he was never a pop singles-oriented artist. In his entire career, he charted just one entry as an artist the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart: “Walk On the Wild Side,” which hit No. 16 in 1973. The single, with its powerful lyrics and memorable “do, de-do” chorus, was lifted from the Bowie co-produced album “Transformer” and written solely by Reed.

“Walk on the Wild Side” was surprisingly turned into a top 10 hit decades later, after it was revived via a sample in 1991. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch — led by future Academy Award-nominee Mark Wahlberg — sampled the track for its 1991 single “Wildside,” which hit No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It spent five weeks at No. 10 on the chart, marking one of the longest runs for a No. 10-peaking single in the Hot 100 chart’s history.

“Walk On the Wild Side” has also proved to be Reed’s biggest-selling song of the digital era, having sold 510,000 downloads in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Another of “Transformer’s” singles — “Perfect Day” — would go on to live an extraordinary life on the charts, thanks to numerous covers and compilation album appearances through the years. Notably, it turned up on the “Trainspotting” soundtrack in 1996, helping the album reach No. 48 on the Billboard 200 and go on to sell 709,000 copies in the U.S.

“Perfect Day” is also currently familiar to millions as the current theme song to TV commercials touting the new PlayStation 4 console. (The song is performed by actors in the commercial, as they battle in various gameplay scenarios.) 

The song also helped bring Reed to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart in 2010, by way of Susan Boyle. The latter singer covered the song on her Christmas album “The Gift,” which debuted at No. 1 on the chart, and spent four weeks atop the list. The album has sold 2.1 million in the U.S.

In recent years, Reed had collaborated with an array of artists, ranging from the Killers and Gorillaz to Blind Boys of Alabama and Antony and the Johnsons. Reed sold 1.6 million albums in the U.S. since SoundScan began tracking music sales in 1991. (The Velvet Underground adds another 2 million to that sum.)

Reed’s last charting effort during his lifetime, “Lulu” with Metallica, debuted and peaked at No. 10 on the Rock Albums chart and No. 36 on the Billboard 200. It has sold 32,000 in the U.S.