‘How Do You Think It Feels?’

Lou Reed

(Be sure to hear the wonderful – and possibly the only recorded cover version 

by HOWARD TATE – featuring LOU ON GUITAR!  linked below).

By Madeline Bocaro ©

© Madeline Bocaro, 2020. No part of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner



In 1972, after his years with The Velvet Underground and one ignored solo album, Lou Reed skyrocketed from the gutters of the underground to the glimmer of Glam Rock.  David Bowie and Mick Ronson’s stellar production of Lou’s second solo album Transformer made it an instant hit. The album has since become a revered classic.

My story: Transformed


Lou’s follow-up to Transformer was Berlin (released July 1973). The songs illustrate a depressing debacle of decadence and depravity. While Reed considered Berlin his masterpiece, critics and fans considered it commercial suicide. Decades later, the album finally received accolades for its brilliance. Lou performed the entire album live in 2006 (so successfully that he went on tour) reunited with many of its original players, a choir and the album’s producer Bob Ezrin wielding a baton.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUvT6we5Spk

My concert review:  Lou Reed’s Berlin Wall of Sound – Live 2006:


Bob Ezrin’s musical arrangements of Berlin are beautiful and sometimes haunting. The songs are lyrically minimal and striking. A melancholy orchestral score illustrates a couple’s doomed romance. Prostitution, drugs, betrayal, beatings, suicide, apathy – the whole gamut of Velvet Underground song topics converged in the lives of two wretched people in a decadent city. All of this is related by Lou in his detached monotone narrative.

Although the entire Berlin album is a masterpiece, ‘How Do You Think It Feels?’ is quintessential Lou. It’s one of the album’s few rockers.  Lou sings in the first person of a succinct, articulate drug addict. This is obviously not his first song about the subject, but it is rendered unique by Ezrin’s score and arrangement.

Lou sings from experience – which is why this sounds so sincere and real. He fully conveys his desperation to someone like myself, who has never been high in my life. His VU songs, ‘Heroin’ and ‘White Light, White Heat’ engage us so completely that we feel the rush and the release metaphysically.

But this song is not about the drug. It’s about the loneliness,

the hunt and the craving

 – and feeling like a predatory animal.

With only these few poignant words, Lou conveys a wretched and tortured existence;

“How do you think it feels

When you’ve been up for five days…

Hunting around always

‘Cause you’re afraid of sleeping”

… How do you think it feels? And when do you think it stops?

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_ZXglPhalc

Not only is this an incredible Reed composition, but the players take the piece beyond his lyrical brilliance. The highlight is the stellar guitar play between Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner – later immortalized on the live albums made from Lou’s tour. We have the essential sax and trumpet of the Brecker Brothers, Jack Bruce on bass and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.  The 1973  live version of the song was omitted from the Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal album released in 1974 and also from Lou Reed Live released in 1975. (Both live albums include songs from two back-to-back concerts at The Academy of Music in NYC on December 21, 1973). The (faster) live version was finally released on a Japanese reissue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal in 2006.

Lou performs the song live in 1976 @ WBCN Radio  – Boston


Here is a beautifully orchestrated bluesy/jazz interpretation by American soul singer/songwriter Howard Tate (1939-2011) whose amazing voice has been compared to Al Green.

Howard Tate WITH LOU REED on guitar and The Steve Weisberg Orchestra (2006).

(Check out the drumming which is in the style of Lou’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’).

“Lou, can you help me right here?”

‘How Do You Think It Feels?’ Howard Tate:



Howard Tate retired from the music industry in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he became a homeless drug addict, and a decade later became a drug counsellor and a preacher. He revived his career in 2003 and covered Lou’s song in 2006. He died of leukemia in 2011.

From Tate’s obituary:

“Following a series of misfortunes, including a divorce and the death of his daughter in a house fire in 1976, Tate dropped out of music and turned to drugs and alcohol.

“I turned to cocaine, and it was the worst thing I could have ever done,” he told the Philadelphia Enquirer in a 2004 interview. “It destroyed my willpower. I became homeless, roaming around those drug neighborhoods in Camden. I actually thought I was going to be found dead in an alley. It was like I was waiting to die.”

Here’s another great song by Tate, ‘Homewrecker’


 “How do you Think It Feels?”

Lou Reed

How do you think it feels
When you’re speeding and lonely
Come here baby
How do you think it feels
When all you can say is. ‘If only’

If only I had a little
If only I had some change
If only, if only, only
How do you think it feels
And when do you think it stops?

How do you think it feels
When you’ve been up for five days
Come down here Mamma
Hunting around always – ooh
‘Cause you’re afraid of sleeping

How do you think it feels
To feel like a wolf and foxy
How do you think it feels
To always make love by proxy?
How do you think it feels
And when do you think it stops?
When do you think it stops?


© Madeline Bocaro 2020. No part of these written materials may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without the  prior written consent of Madeline Bocaro. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Madeline Bocaro is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without prior written permission of Madeline Bocaro. 

madelinex.com is a non-profit blog created for educational and research purposes.

Any content that may violate copyright or free usage laws will be removed immediately upon request.


Read about other songs in my category

 ‘About A Song’


My Playlists:


Also see:

Lou Reed’s Sad Song – ‘Junior Dad’



13 thoughts on “‘How Do You Think It Feels?’

  1. I love your writings, and this one is no exception. Thank you for the Howard Tate version, I didn’t know about it until reading this article.

    1. You’re welcome Christian! I have never LOVED a cover version of anything as much as I love the Howard Tate. And THEN I realized it’s because LOU is playing guitar on it! This is what inspired me to write the story.

  2. I love your writings and this one is no exception. Thank you for mentioning the Howard Tate version, I didn’t know about it until reading this article.

  3. How do you think it feels on the moon: Like a wolf and foxy? Hmmmm! I must decide! Thank you for a well written and informative article!

  4. Berlin is one of my favorite albums, especially How Do You Think It Feels?
    As a former lifelong speed freak, now clean 25 yrs, I listened to all Lou’s music. Still do. Love your articles!

Leave a Reply