Herbie Flowers: “People have often said that I should've got a writer’s credit for Walk On The Wild Side”

Photo of Lou REED and English bass player and session musician Herbie Flowers (ex Sky and Blue Mink)
(Image credit: Photo by Richard Ecclestone/Redferns and Robert Knight Archive/Redferns)

Having recorded over 20,000 sessions for the likes of David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, T-Rex, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Elton John, to name but a few, British session bassist Brian ‘Herbie’ Flowers (“I get booked because of my stupid name!”) is probably best known for his nifty slide line on Lou Reed’s 1972 hit Walk on the Wild Side, which has not one, but two bass parts. Yet despite the song hinging on the bass, which Flowers performed on upright and overdubbed with his Fender Jazz, he only received the grand sum of £17.

Not that the modest musician will himself blow his own trumpet. “I’ve no problem with that at all! You do the job and get your arse away,” he once told Mojo writer Phil Sutcliffe about his contributions to some of the best-known songs in rock. “Space Oddity (David Bowie, 1969) was £9 for a three-hour session. By Rock On (David Essex, 1973) it had gone up to £12 for three hours!”

Nevertheless, his bassline for Lou Reed is one of the most distinctive things about the track. “Well, that’s great, but you could say the same for the trumpet on Penny Lane or the sax on Baker Street. People have often suggested that I should have got writer’s credits, but I just helped put an arrangement together."

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.