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Lou Reed — Transformer

February 6, 2013

Lou Reed

Transformer

1972

David Bowie’s management company Mainmain secured Lou Reed for RCA in 1972. The resulting solo album, cobbled together from some of Lou’s old Velvet Underground rejects and other works in progress, was promising.

Drafted in to play a big part in second album Transformer, producers Bowie and Ronson complemented Lou’s Sunday best voice with some wonderful backing vocals, while session musicians, notably Herbi Flowers, upped the ante.

Containing the bellwether songs, Satellite of Love, Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day, Transformer still sounds as unique today as it did at the end of the space age. The more throw-away tracks like Wagon Wheel and New York Telephone Conversation still have charm and overall the album is a glowing package – the Glam Rock opener Vicious setting the scene for Lou’s new Rono/Bowie driven direction.

The infamous Walk On The Wild Side with its jazz percussion, cool bass line and baritone sax put Lou on the solo artist map. Fortunately the pantomime horse had bolted by the time the colourful lyrical content was noticed by the mainstream prudes.

Despite a positive reception this album was not widely praised at the time. And incredibly, even with Beeb airplay, second single Satellite of Love, released in ’73, was not a big success. Satellite is arguably one of the strongest singles of the seventies – in the same orbit with, and comparable to Bowie’s Drive in Saturday of the same year. The Hey Jude type ending with multi-layered Rono/Bowie vocals is enthralling and surreal. And Rono’s minimalist piano arrangement, also a feature of Perfect Day, inspired.

Sadly, since been widely known from the atrocious charity version – like the Moustache on the Mon Lisa – Perfect Day has itself turned to scattered showers. But now at least the deserving and the just have received recognition.

 

 

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