Twas a good day. I read, I lounged around all lazy-like, I had a sandwich, a steak, some corn, a beer (two actually) and, later, we’re even going to play a little frisbee at the beach. Tomorrow it’s back to the grind for my last big”Iron Build” week, so I’m wrapping up today’s “Do Nothing” day with one last beer (well, the nights still young) and the ‘Transformer‘ album by Lou Reed.
This was another hep (yes, I used the word “hep”) find at the 20-Mod Retro Shop in Fort Erie.
David Bowie was never been shy about acknowledging his influences, and since the boho decadence and sexual ambiguity of the Velvet Underground‘s music had a major impact on Bowie’s work, it was only fitting that as Ziggy Stardust mania was reaching its peak, Bowie would offer Lou Reed some much needed help with his career, which was stuck in neutral after his first solo album came and went.
Musically, Reed’s work didn’t have too much in common with the sonic bombast of the glam scene, but at least it was a place where his eccentricities could find a comfortable home, and on ‘Transformer‘ released in 1972, Bowie and his right-hand man, Mick Ronson, crafted a new sound for Reed that was better fitting (and more commercially astute) than the ambivalent tone of his first solo album.
Ronson adds some guitar raunch to ‘Vicious‘ and ‘Hangin’ Round‘ that’s a lot flashier than what Reed cranked out with the Velvet’s, but still honors Lou’s strengths in guitar-driven hard rock, while the imaginative arrangements Ronson cooked up for ‘Perfect Day‘, ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘, and ‘Goodnight Ladies‘ blend pop polish with musical thinking just as distinctive as Reed’s lyrical conceits. And while Reed occasionally overplays his hand in writing stuff he figured the glam kids wanted (‘Make Up‘ and ‘I’m So Free‘ being the most obvious examples), ‘Perfect Day‘, ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘, and ‘New York Telephone Conversation‘ proved he could still write about the demimonde with both perception and respect. I would also be remiss to point out that ‘Satellite of Love‘ is also pretty cool.
The sound and style of this album would in many ways define Reed’s career in the 1970s, and while it led him into a style that proved to be a dead end, you can’t deny that Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life – and a solid album in the bargain. In 2003, the album was ranked #194 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
My own personal Bible (Mojo, 1995) ranks this album at #45.
“And all the colored girls go, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo….”