November 5, 2013

Lou's Zoo Reviews – 1972's TRANSFORMER

The day after the death of Lou Reed, one of my students who knew I was a fan, asked me what it was about Lou that I idolized so much. 

My response? THE MUSIC 

He subsequently asked me to recommend some songs. This was the inspiration for this series of posts (as well as an excuse to go through the entire Lou discography again). This series will focus on Lou's solo career only, a historic overview, from 1972's Lou Reed to 2000's Ecstasy. What follows is hardly definitive, short-handed at best, and purely my opinions. 


After the wreck of his debut solo album, Lou was a bit awash. Luckily, there were some pretty smart and talented people out there who still believed in Lou. Two of these folks were David Bowie and, more importantly, Mick Ronson. They grabbed Lou, glammed him out, and brought him to London where they subsequently recorded Transformer and gave Lou his first taste of success as a solo artist.

Best songs: 
Walk on the Wild Side – the one Lou Reed song that everybody knows. It's the gateway drug to Lou's career and, even though you've heard it over and over and over again lately, it's still a pretty amazing song. The fact that it was a hit in 1972 given its subject matter is a mythic tale. Lou's voice is like a spa treatment mud mask. And that opening bass line...

Andy's Chest – this is a funny song, a surreal monologue, and maybe, just maybe, a great love song? But what really makes this song for me are the lines, “Cause you know what they say about honey bears / When you shave off all their baby hair / You have a hairy-minded pink bare bear” – Greater rock and roll lyrics have never been written

Hangin Round – Lou was an ass. So are most teenagers. For me, it was hard to be a teenager and not like this song. Another one of Lou's songs capitalizing on the decadence of others, but the chorus is so "I'm Better Than You" that he's making commentary while empowering shitty attitudes.

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