Lou Reed – Transformer

Lou ReedDavid Bowie doesn’t get a lot of credit for his influence in the 1970’s and beyond. Whilst he made some of his best and influential work in the mid to late 70’s, he managed to still be relevant and idolised after punk, which washed away many of his contemporaries. Indeed the musical seeds of punk were born from two bands, whose main figures Bowie would help out. The Stooges and Velvet Underground were influential but not successful, commercially speaking. When Iggy Pop and Lou Reed went solo, it was Bowie who produced and co-wrote their most successful albums. With Iggy, Bowie crafted Lust For Life and The Idiot which brought Iggy some success. Lou Reed already had a solo album released in 1972, but it contained many songs from his VU tenure, and offered nothing new.

Lou recorded Transformer in London with Bowie producing and Mick Ronson from the Spiders From Mars contributing guitars and some sumptuous arrangements. Whilst Glam Rock was emerging as the new music sound, there’s nothing that’s really verbose and bombastic on Transformer. “Satellite of Love” finishes on a wonderful surge (on which you can hear David Bowie’s voice as clear as day on the harmonies, but it’s a natural progression towards the end of the song. “Vicious” is a great opening track that hints at Lou’s love of feedback.

It’s only some of the tracks that try to ape the Glam sound that sound out of place: “New York Telephone Conversation” just sounds twee. “I’m So Free” isn’t bad, but the “whoo-hoo!” vocals sound silly to me. But Transformer is dominated by the big hits that were probably some of the best songs that Lou has ever written. “Perfect Day” and “Walk On The Wild Side” are two songs that are part of rock culture. The first is a beautifully delicate paen to heroin (allegedly), the latter a funky, yet minimalist song that’s defined by Herbie Flowers bassline. Transformer set the benchmark for the rest of Lou’s career, but for the rest of the decade only Berlin (1973) and Coney Island Baby (1976) came close to the highpoint of Transformer

Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side (live):

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  1. Truly the mark of genius is that of the artist who can single-handedly resurrect anothers career. In Bowie’s case, he did it with three; Iggy, Lou Reed, and Mott the Hoople.

  2. Very true, in the case of Mott The Hoople he wrote their best song and career defining hit. “All the Young Dudes” is awesome.




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