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Transformer is Lou Reed's breakthrough second solo album, released in December 1972. Unlike its predecessor Lou Reed, eight songs of which were leftovers from his Velvet Underground days, this album contains mainly new material. However, there are still a few songs that date from his VU days—Velvet Underground-recorded versions of "Andy's Chest" and "Satellite of Love" surfaced in 1985 and 1995, respectively; and "New York Telephone Conversation" and "I'm So Free" are known to have been played during the Velvets' run at Max's Kansas Citymarker in the summer of 1970.

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 Hunky Dory album, and he performed a cover version of "White Light/White Heat" at the final Ziggy Stardust concert in 1973, at which Reed also made a guest appearance.

Mick Ronson, who was at the time the lead guitarist with Bowie's backing band, played a major role in the recording of the album, serving as the co-producer and primary session musician (contributing guitar, piano, recorder and backing vocals) and arranger, notably 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 fading out 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 in his own right.

"Andy's Chest" had been recorded in 1969 for The Velvet Underground's "lost fourth album" (see VU and Another View) and "Satellite of Love" had been demoed for the band's 1970 album Loaded, but neither had been used. For Transformer, the poppy up-tempo feel of these songs was slowed down to turn them into ballads. Although all songs on the album were credited to Reed, it has long been rumoured that "Wagon Wheel" is actually a David Bowie composition. Although there are no known performances of "Vicious" by the Velvet Underground, the song apparently dates from Reed's time in the band and its association with Andy Warhol. According to Reed, Warhol told Reed he should write a song about someone vicious. Reed inquired what he meant by that, and Warhol replied, "Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower."

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) and 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.

The cover art was from a Mick Rock photograph.

In 1997, Transformer was named the 44th greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdommarker 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 were written by Lou Reed.

Side one

  1. "Vicious" – 2:58
  2. "Andy's Chest" – 3:20
  3. "Perfect Day" – 3:46
  4. "Hangin' 'Round" – 3:35
  5. "Walk on the Wild Side" – 4:15


Side two

  1. "Make Up" – 3:00
  2. "Satellite of Love" – 3:42
  3. "Wagon Wheel" – 3:19
  4. "New York Telephone Conversation" – 1:33
  5. "I'm So Free" – 3:09
  6. "Goodnight Ladies" – 4:21 (arranged & performed by Herbie Flowers)


2002 re-release bonus tracks

  1. "Hangin' Round" (acoustic demo) – 3:57
  2. "Perfect Day" (acoustic demo) + "Transformer" Radio Advertising (Hidden Track) – 4:50


Personnel

Additional personnel



Charts

Album

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


Single

Year Single Chart Position
1973 "Walk on the Wild Side" Billboard Pop Singles 16
1973 "Walk on the Wild Side" UK Singles Chart 10


Notes


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