Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Influential glam rock from wild child Lou Reed

Lou Reed has been an incredibly influential figure in rock music. He was a founding member and principal songwriter for The Velvet Underground (who my daughter insists on calling The Velvet Underwear). That band included John Cale, who I had in my collection as a solo artist before I knew he was a member of the Underground, and Nico, who went on to star in Frederico Fellini and Andy Warhol movies and had a decent solo musical career. The band was managed by Andy Warhol. Many of the people involved with the band were movers and shakers in the 60s and 70s.

Doesn't look like a face you want to meet in a dark alley, though that's probably where you would meet him.

Lou Reed left the band in August of 1970. His first solo release, “Lou Reed,” mostly contains material that he wrote in the final months of The Velvet Underground. His 1972 release, “Transformer,” was almost all new Reed material. The album was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, both of whom admit to being heavily influenced by the Underground. The result of Reed breaking out of his band and being in the studio with a musical chameleon like Bowie is an album that ranges all around in an amazing variety of styles. Good time rock and roll, sappy love songs, ragtime, and glam weirdness all grew out of these sessions.

Given the darkness of many of Lou Reed’s songs on other albums (give the 2nd movement of the brilliant but grim title track from “Street Hassle”  a listen), this album is pretty upbeat. A couple of famous Reed songs came from this album. The chord progressions are often sunny, the lyrics are optimistic or playful. It’s a surprisingly happy album from Reed. I will admit that some of the songs I simply don’t like. ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Goodnight Ladies,’ for example, just don’t speak to me. However, these 5 live on my iPod and I expect you will like them.

  • Vicious – OK, so the lyrics aren’t optimistic, but they are kind of playful and the guitar work is energetic and fun.
  • Walk on the Wild Side – I think it’s safe to say this is his most famous song. It’s certainly the one I have heard the most. In spite of the many dozens of times I’ve heard this song, I still never get tired of the bass line.
  • Satellite of Love – You can really hear Bowie’s influence in the piano arrangement and the backing vocals. The last minute of this song builds so wonderfully.
  • Wagon Wheel – So here is some of the good time rock and roll I mentioned, except for a 30-second pensive bridge.
  • I’m So Free – Continuing with the good time vibe, Reed celebrates his hedonistic and bohemian life.

Like Lou Reed himself, “Transformer” is full of rough edges and this album is nearly 40 years old. Some passages are a little sloppy and the production sounds dated on some of the tracks. Even so, it is a collection of compelling songs by a young, influential artist with a rock legend at the mixing board. You could consider it a rock and roll time capsule and think about how many people are standing on Reed’s broad shoulders. I just like the music.



September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Classic Rock, Rock

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