Transformer (Lou Reed album)  

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"In a mixed review of Transformer for Rolling Stone magazine, Nick Tosches highlighted four "quality" songs, including "Satellite of Love" but dismissed most of the album as "artsyfartsy kind of homo stuff" that lacks assertiveness." --Sholem Stein

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Transformer is the second studio album by American rock musician Lou Reed, released in November 1972. Along with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars released the same year, it defined the glam rock genre.




As with its predecessor Lou Reed, Transformer 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. For Transformer, the original up-tempo pace of these songs was slowed down.

"New York Telephone Conversation" and "Goodnight Ladies" 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 that, Warhol replied, "Oh, you know, vicious, like I hit you with a flower.", 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.


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, 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 the Transformer 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.


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 the album cover. 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.

Critical reception

In a mixed review of Transformer 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. In a retrospective review for The 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.'"

In 1997, Transformer was named the 44th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. Transformer 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. It is also on Q Magazine's list of "100 Greatest Albums Ever".

Track listing

All songs written by Lou Reed except when noted*

Side one

  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

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


Additional personnel


Chart history

The first single from the album, "Walk on the Wild Side", became an international success, despite its adult subject matter (it was edited in some countries and banned in others). It is now generally regarded 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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Transformer (Lou Reed album)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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