Transformer is the second studio album by American rock musician Lou Reed, released in November 1972.[1]

Contents[edit | edit source]

 [hide*1 Conception

Conception[edit][edit | edit source]

Background[edit][edit | edit source]

As with its predecessor Lou ReedTransformer contains songs Reed composed while in the Velvet Underground (here, four out of ten). "Andy's Chest" was first recorded by the band in 1969 and "Satellite of Love" demoed in 1970; these versions were released on VU and Peel Slowly and See, respectively. ForTransformer, the original up-tempo pace of these songs was slowed down.

"New York Telephone Conversation" and "Goodnight Ladies"[2] are known to have been played live during the band's summer 1970 residency at Max's Kansas City; the latter takes its title refrain from the last line of the second section ("A Game of Chess") of T. S. Eliot's modernist poem, The Waste Land: "Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night."

As in Reed's Velvet Underground days, the Andy Warhol connection remained strong. According to Reed, Warhol told him he should write a song about someone vicious. When Reed asked what he meant by vicious, Warhol replied, "Oh, you know, like I hit you with a flower",[3] resulting in the song "Vicious".

Although all songs on the album were credited to Reed, it has long been rumored that "Wagon Wheel" is actually a David Bowie composition.[4]

Production[edit][edit | edit source]

Transformer was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, both of whom had been strongly influenced by Reed's work with the Velvet Underground. Bowie had obliquely referenced the Velvet Underground in the cover notes for his album Hunky Dory and regularly performed both "White Light/White Heat" and "I'm Waiting for the Man" in concerts and on the BBC during 1971–1973. He even began recording "White Light/White Heat" for inclusion on Pin-Ups[citation needed], but it was never completed; Ronson ended up using the backing track for his solo album Play Don't Worry in 1974.

Mick Ronson (who was at the time the lead guitarist with Bowie's band, the Spiders from Mars) played a major role in the recording of the album at Trident Studios, serving as the co-producer and primary session musician (contributing guitar, piano, recorder and backing vocals), as well as arranger, notably contributing the lush string arrangement for "Perfect Day". Reed lauded Ronson's contribution in theTransformer episode of the documentary series Classic Albums, praising the beauty of his work and keeping down the vocal to highlight the strings. The songs on the LP are now among Reed's best-known works, including "Walk on the Wild Side", "Perfect Day" and "Satellite of Love", and the album's commercial success elevated him from cult status to become an international star.

Artwork[edit][edit | edit source]

The cover art was from a Mick Rock photograph that fortuitously went out of focus as he was printing it in the darkroom. Rock noticed the flaw but decided he liked the effect, so he submitted the image for thealbum cover.[5] The back cover shows a woman and a man. The man, Ernie Thormahlen (a friend of Reed's), has a banana stuffed into the front of his blue jeans.[6]

Critical reception[edit][edit | edit source]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [7]
Chicago Tribune [8]
Robert Christgau B−[9]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [11]

In a mixed review for Rolling Stone magazine, Nick Tosches highlighted four "quality" songs, including "Hangin' 'Round" and "Satellite of Love", which he felt express a stimulating sexuality, but dismissed most of the album as "artsyfartsy kind of homo stuff" that lacks assertiveness.[1] In a retrospective review forThe Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Tom Hull wrote that Reed "wrote a bunch of clever new songs and tried to cash in on producer David Bowie's trendily androgynous glam rock, which worked well enough to break 'Walk on the Wild Side.'"[11]

In 1997, Transformer was named the 44th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium[12] poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group,Channel 4The Guardian and Classic FMTransformer is also ranked number 55 on NME 's list of "Greatest Albums of All Time." In 2003, the album was ranked number 194 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[13] It is also on Q Magazine's list of "100 Greatest Albums Ever".

In the few days after Reed's death in 2013, digital album sales of Transformer, "Walk on the Wild Side", and "Perfect Day" rose.[14]

Track listing[edit][edit | edit source]

All songs written by Lou Reed.

Side one[edit][edit | edit source]

  1. "Vicious" – 2:55
  2. "Andy's Chest" – 3:17
  3. "Perfect Day" – 3:43
  4. "Hangin' 'Round" – 3:39
  5. "Walk on the Wild Side" – 4:12

Side two[edit][edit | edit source]

  1. "Make Up" – 2:58
  2. "Satellite of Love" – 3:40
  3. "Wagon Wheel" – 3:19
  4. "New York Telephone Conversation" – 1:31
  5. "I'm So Free" – 3:07
  6. "Goodnight Ladies" – 4:19

30th anniversary edition Bonus Tracks[edit][edit | edit source]

  1. "Hangin' 'Round [Acoustic demo]" - 3:58
  2. "Perfect Day [Acoustic demo]" - 4:50
    (Includes a hidden track featuring an advert for the album.)

Personnel[edit][edit | edit source]

Additional personnel[edit][edit | edit source]

Production[edit][edit | edit source]

Chart history[edit][edit | edit source]

The first single from the album, "Walk on the Wild Side", became an international success, despite its controversial subject matter (it was edited in some countries and banned in others). It is now generally regarded[by whom?] as Reed's signature tune. "Satellite of Love" was issued as the second single in February 1973. In 2002, a 30th anniversary edition of the album was released; in addition to demos of "Hangin' Round" and "Perfect Day", it includes a hidden track featuring an advert for the album. Following his death in October 2013, digital sales of Transformer, "Walk on the Wild Side", and "Perfect Day" all rose more than 300%, and "Walk on the Wild Side" cracked the new Billboard Rock Digital Songs chart at #38.[14]

Album[edit][edit | edit source]

Year Chart Position
1972 Billboard 200 29
1973 UK Albums Chart 13

Single[edit][edit | edit source]

Year Single Chart Position
1973 "Walk on the Wild Side" Billboard Pop Singles 16
"Walk on the Wild Side" UK Singles Chart 10
2013 "Walk on the Wild Side" Billboard Rock Digital Songs 38
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