Lou Reed - Transformer (1972)

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Much has been written and said about Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, but the most insightful observation I've heard came from Brian Eno. In reference to the Underground's relative lack of record sales, he commented "Only five thousand people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them started a band." Hell yes. Much like the late Alex Chilton, or Gram Parsons, Lou Reed's value isn't just in his work, it's in the influence his work has had on music over the years.

When I found Transformer on my dad's shelves, it stuck out for two reasons. First, the cover art, which can probably be blamed for the first utterance of the term 'heroin chic.' Secondly, I had just seen Adventureland, in which Satellite of Love is heavily referenced. And while I had several Lou Reed songs among my collection, for some reason that track had eluded me until then.

Transferring this album to mp3 was the first time I'd actually listened to the album all the way through. It starts with Vicious, which is the dictionary definition of a Lou Reed tune. The steady 4/4 marching guitars, accented with the occasional distorted shimmy, all backing up the understated vocals. The song builds to a Heroin-like cacophony, but reels it in just when you think it's all about to fly off the handle.

[ mp3 ]: Lou Reed - Vicious

By the time I got to the third track, Perfect Day, I realized I had stopped doing whatever menial tasks I do when transferring these records - dishes, writing, whatever. I was simply standing there, completely locked in. This is Lou Reed at his best. The songs are so tight they make you forget any artistry involved. It's like these songs have always existed and Lou Reed just grabbed them out of the ether and started playing them. For example, Perfect Day could have a parenthetical title, Perfect Song.

[ mp3 ]: Lou Reed - Perfect Day

And finally, on the second side, there it was. Satellite of Love, finally in my grasp.

[ mp3 ]: Lou Reed - Satellite of Love

As the record ran out on side B (with the brilliant Goodnight Ladies, which I would like to be played ceremoniously at my funeral), I immediately re-arranged my brain to refer to this as Lou Reed's best album. Can you name one better?

-N.W.

Seth
3/30/2010 09:36:31 am

U2 does a cool cover of Satellite of Love as a B-side from Achtung Baby. There's also a good episode of Classic Albums that's airs on VH1 Classics about this album.

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Nelson
3/30/2010 09:55:00 am

Sweet - I'll look for that. Classic Albums sounds awesome - does that air a lot? I would love to see those. They sound like they'd be TV versions of those 33 1/3 books, which are solid. Thanks for reading Seth!

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Seth
3/31/2010 01:00:36 am

They're scattered through the schedule. Its all interviews with the artists and producers and usually go in depth about the making of certain tracks.

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5/6/2011 02:39:35 pm

"U2 does a cool cover of Satellite of Love as a B-side from Achtung Baby."

bono sings satellite of love in the zoo tour show, it's really beautiful. he sings while lou reed appears on the screen, so sometimes bono sings and sometimes lou reed sings.

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5/9/2011 08:07:34 am

I'll look that up! Thanks for the tip, Pamella! Happy listening!

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