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The song is about purchasing 26 dollars worth of heroin in a Harlem brownstone near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in New York City. The song is sung from the point of view of the purchaser who is presumably traveling to Harlem from another part of the city; the "man" in the song's title is a drug dealer. Along with traditional guitar, bass, and drums, the song also features pounding, percussive rock-and-roll barrelhouse-style piano. It is one of the band's more popular songs, and one of their many compositions featuring drugs as subject matter. After leaving the band in 1970, Lou Reed continued to incorporate the song into his solo live performances. Reed does not often sing the song himself anymore. Released as a single in October 1971 (b/w "There She Goes Again") as Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground on MGM Records.