By now we’re all accustomed to Cadillac using classic Led Zeppelin tunes to hawk its cars, Taco Bell selling chalupas via Guns ‘n Roses, Beatles songs selling Nikes. It’s all fair game if the price is right, but it wasn’t always so. In a new biography called Lou Reed: A Life, Anthony DeCurtis makes the case that it all began with a commercial Reed made in 1984 to help Honda launch its new line of scooters, the soundtrack being Reed’s greatest hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.”

Honda’s greatest advertising success was “You Meet the Nicest People” two decades earlier. By 1984, it decided to take a completely different tack, focussing on New York street life in all its graffiti-besmirched gritty glory, populated by actual denizens including prostitutes, guys trying to get a little sleep, and sundry riffraff involved in what appear to be all manner of nefarious jump-cut dealings. Not only did Reed allow his counterculture anthem to be used to hawk Hondas, he even appears in the end to deliver the tag line – “Don’t settle for walkin'”– which is actually pretty dang clever when we’re talking scooters.

It was probably all inevitable anyway, given that MTV and VH1 had ushered in the video era, and any band that wanted commercial success from then on would have to be visually as well as sonically presentable (a thing that’s even crept into motojurnalism in the last few years). Not long after, the ability for people to download music rather than buy it at Tower Records drove another stake into the heart of any artist who resisted “selling out” to the advertising industry. After that, the counterculture would be well and truly absorbed by corporate America, Gordon Gekko would become a role model, and greed was good. Not that any of that’s a bad thing.

The Youtube version of Reed’s Honda ad is so grainy and dark it’s a bit tough to tell, but I assume he’s sitting on the all-new `84 Elite 125, featuring exciting new Honda tech like a liquid-cooled four-stroke engine, retractable headlight, and sweet new digital dashboard. In 1985 there was a new Elite 150 and a Deluxe model. Alas, even Lou Reed couldn’t make the Elite cool enough to be commercially viable in the go-go `80s: After the 1987 model year, Honda pulled the plug.

Read the excerpt from DeCurtis’s new book over here at for more.