Posts Tagged ‘Transformer’

Sleeve for Lou Reed's Transformer

Commercial success and critical acclaim together or apart are not really the true measure of an artist’s work. History and public acceptance can ‘transform’ the perspective and create a re-evaluation, or revisionist history towards how the art is viewed. No other work quite typifies this more than Lou Reed with his second solo effort “Transformer”.

Transformer is an incarnation of Reed at his most tuneful and accessible, just right for an almost-teenager. Just wrong, you might say. If the swooping basslines and whooping choruses drew me in, the lyrics kept me riveted and puzzling. “Shaved her legs and then he was a she” I could work out. But what was the “Up-all-oh”? “Angel dust”? “Giving head”? What about “hustler”? Oh, how Google would have helped me then

With the Velvet Underground, Reed became a beacon to the outsider experience and while album sales were low, critics and musicians had found a kind of anti-hero on whom to heap praise. Once the Velvets had broken up, Reed continued his stories and of counter-culture misfits but to a more commercialized effect on Transformer. Produced by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, Transformer would be heavily influenced by Bowie’s then ‘glam’ movement and blur the same androgynous lines can be heard singing backing vocals (his falsetto seems obvious on Satellite of Love, . However, Reed would use his own brand of wry observation and deadpan delivery to create characters that lived with and amongst his crowd as opposed to embodying the characters space as Bowie did with Ziggy and Aladdin Sane.

As with its predecessor Lou Reed, Transformer contains songs Reed composed while still 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 poem, The Waste Land: “Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.”, which is itself a quote from Ophelia in Hamlet.

As in Reed’s Velvet Underground days, the connection to artist Andy Warhol 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”,resulting in the song “Vicious”.

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Oddly, it was “Walk On The Wild Side” a song that spoke of transsexuality, oral sex and drug use that propelled the album to heights neither seen by the Velvet Underground or Reed himself in previous efforts. It wouldn’t be until the 1990’s that “Perfect Day” would become an underground hit. The supposed ode to his drug habit, Perfect Day, only works because, no matter who the song is dedicated to, it is a beautiful ballad. Then there is the epic, neon-drenched goodbye to his association with Andy Warhol and his factory acolytes,

On its release in 1972, Transformer was given mixed reviews by critics who claimed it was overly “art-y” and overly sexual. History of course has shed new light and Transformer has made just about every magazines ‘Best All-Time’ list. There was a BBC documentary devoted entirely to Walk on the Wild Side. My questions were answered. There was Holly, who did indeed “come from Miami FLA”. It turned out “Up-all-oh” was the Apollo theatre in Harlem, and “Sugar Plum fairy” a drug dealer. Though Candy and Jackie had departed this world, Joe Dallesandro was there, wistfully contemplating wasted opportunities. And then there was Lou – decked out in leather jacket and leathery skin – complaining about people using Walk on the Wild Side without permission.

Despite, or maybe due to its recognition, finding vinyl editions of Transformer is pretty easy, but figuring out what works best for you might get a little more difficult. You can find used copies pretty much anywhere. I’m sure a lot of people who bought Transformer to get similar material to “Walk On The Wild Side” only to find that it wasn’t like that. As for new, eight official vinyl editions have come out since 2004 with four in just the last three years. On RSD 2012 a straight re-issue was put out in record stores, and is still the most common new copy you will find. In 2013 – 2014 unofficial green and blue versions were released in the UK. Finally, a few weeks ago Newbury Comics put out a Limited Edition half black and half gold version. There were 1200 copies printed and each was gold stamp numbered.

Due to the sheer amount of what is available, you can get most copies of Transformer for less than $30.00 (including the unofficial UK copies). Only the Newbury edition is commanding high prices on the resale market, and that’s pretty damn silly, because you can still get a copy from Newbury for less than $30.00. The split colour looks awesome and indeed sounds great.

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You can get it here. Anyway, with his recent induction into the “Rock Hall of fame” you can expect some renewed interest and copies of Transformer may begin to disappear. You might want to give that some thought this time if you’ve been sitting on the fence.

Last November, on the 45th anniversary of Lou Reed’s legendary Transformer album, photographer Mick Rock joined Rolling Stone editor David Fricke in a conversation for readers at the New York Public Library. Marking the anniversary, Mick kindly signed 45 bookplates specially for readers around the globe. Accordingly, 45 Collector copies are now available, each additionally including:

  • The new 24-page booklet with an essay by Mick Rock and 50 previously unpublished photographs
  • The looseleaf ‘Rock and Roll Heart’ facsimile handwritten lyric sheet
  • The commemorative New York Public Library bookplate signed by Mick Rock on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Transformer
  • Transformer book bag and publishing prospectus

Transformer

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Ezra Furman at Bowery Ballroom

Ezra Furman, currently on tour behind his latest release Transangelic Exodus, stopped by NYC’s Brooklyn Steel . Playing in front of a beautifully-designed set backdrop, Ezra played many cuts from the new record, such as the driving “Suck the Blood from My Wound” and anthemic single “Love You So Bad.” Ezra also played some older favorites like “My Zero,” and covered Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love.”

Furman, who has released solo albums as well as albums with his bands Ezra Furman and the Harpoons and Ezra Furman and the Boy-Friends, identifies as gender fluid. A musician himself, he seems the ideal writer for an exploration into the many iterations of Lou Reed’s persona.

Ezra Furman has also penned the most recent installment in the 33 1/3 book series, which focuses on Lou Reed‘s classic album “Transformer”. Here’s the book’s official synopsis:

Transformer, Lou Reed’s most enduringly popular album, is described with varying labels: it’s often called a glam rock album, a proto-punk album, a commercial breakthrough for Lou Reed, and an album about being gay. And yet, it doesn’t neatly fit into any of these descriptors. Buried underneath the radio-friendly exterior lie coded confessions of the subversive, wounded intelligence that gives this album its staying power as a work of art. Here Lou Reed managed to make a fun, accessible rock’n’roll record that is also a troubled meditation on the ambiguities-sexual, musical and otherwise-that defined his public persona and helped make him one of the most fascinating and influential figures in rock history. Through close listening and personal reflections, songwriter Ezra Furman explores Reed’s and Transformer‘s unstable identities, and the secrets the songs challenge us to uncover.

Ezra Furman will be in Austin next week for SXSW, Ezra is also part of Willie Nelson’s “Luck Reunion” fest at his ranch during SXSW.

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TRANSFORMER is a new series of shows promoted by the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. It’s name chosen in commemoration of Lou Reed, whose visionary approach to rock both in the Velvet Underground and on albums like Metal Machine Music, is reflected in the line-up of our inaugural event on 28th May 2017:
SWANS, THE FALL, THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT, ROYAL TRUX, LOOP, MUERAN HUMANOS
TRANSFORMER will mark the first Manchester show in over 30 years for THIS IS NOT THIS HEAT but the northern swan song for NY noise-rock titans SWANS, who released their final record The Glowing Man to glowing reviews this summer.

A live radio broadcast from Ultrasonic Recording Studios–first transmitted on New York’s WLIR FM–American Poet boasts excellent sound quality, frenetically high-tensile rock accompaniment from his then backing group The Tots, awesomely passionate versions of “Heroin”, “White Light” and “Rock and Roll” and an interview in which Lou Reed talks–with typical verbal economy–about Mick Ronson (“he’s naughty”), David Bowie (“empathy… [audience giggles]… no, not in that way”) and the Velvet Underground’s Doug Yule (“Dead, I hope”). Icy of demeanour, fiery of rock & roll heart, this is the Ziggy-esque leather-and-eyeliner Lou Reed, returning to home soil on the back of his recently released second solo album–the Bowie/Ronson produced (and influenced) Transformer.

This Solo concert of Lou Reed 1972 in New York, titled American Poet became a sought after bootleg ,quite possibly the best Lou Reed (unofficially released) live album of the lot. Unlike the excessive ‘Rock n Roll Animal’ and ‘Take No Prisoners’ ‘American Poet’ strips Lou’s sound down to reveal what lies at the heart of his music. The mixture of Velvet Underground and solo material here reveals Lou to be a first rate songwriter and his crisp and clear vocal style shows him to be a fine vocalist also.

The versions available here are all very strong. I particuarly love Lou’s slowed down version of ‘I’m Waiting For My Man’ and also ‘Berlin’. I’ve never heard ‘Berlin’ sound so good.

It was recorded in 1972 around the time of the release of ‘Transformer’ and was only available in bootleg form up to more recent years.
Shortly after his separation from the Velvet Underground and immediately after the completion of his second solo album “Transformer”. Contained in the middle of this CD is also a short radio interview with Lou Reed, which doesn’t disturb at all, but fits in very well. Lou Reed is at his best. Obviously he never plays a song twice in the same way, which makes his live albums very interesting. In my opinion each song on this CD is excellent, and I don’t want to highlight any one of them especially.

‘American Poet’ does perhaps lack some of the technical proficiency musically that can be found on Lou’s later live albums but it does reveal the core of his musical talent to a much greater degree.

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The day after Christmas, December of 1972: Lou Reed and band (The Tots) in Hempstead, NY, recording live for radio at Ultrasonic Recording Studio. Recorded just a month after the release of Transformer, the set finds Lou Reed pulling from the new record, riffing on five Velvets tracks and the penultimate “Berlin” – the track that would title his next release six months later.

Tracklist
White Light White Heat
Vicious
I’m Waiting For The Man
Walk It Talk It
Sweet Jane
Heroin
Satellite of Love
Walk On the Wild Side
I’m So Free
Berlin
Rock N Roll