Transformer: In Honor of Uncle Lou Reed

Posted: October 27, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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Lou+Reed+-+Transformer+-+Multicoloured+Vinyl+-+LP+RECORD-377781I had no intention of posting anything for a couple more days, as I know Dave has blogs ready to post, but today’s passing of Mr. Lou Reed changed my intentions. There is no way I could NOT post, given that he was truly one of my heroes. To say my heart is broken at the absence left by him, is in no way sufficient.  And what’s with the “Uncle”? I always thought of Lou as the type of man that I would have wanted as an uncle. Probably not the greatest role model, but he lived life and created his art, on his own terms. I cried hearing about his passing, as if I would have a member of my own family.  His music throughout the years has been an inspiration and a beacon to me in many dark times.  That’s why I am writing this post, in honor of this great artist, with whom we were incredibly lucky to have witnessed and enjoyed his words, for many years.

I didn’t become intimately acquainted with Lou until 1999. I was working at Crown Books and my friend and eventual paramour thrice-times-over J.L. brought in The Velvet Underground & Nico. It’s a classic born out of my second favorite decades (1967), and yet I had NEVER heard this treasure. I wasn’t sure why he brought that in that evening, but it didn’t get put on the radio til after Stacey “Boom Boom McKinney” had went home. I absorbed it enough that I realized I really had been missing out on this treasure, so I went out the next check and got it. Something about the tones of straight up debauchery, Lou Reed style, really touched me, or rather, at that point, inspired me to greater and more ridiculous levels of intolerance. That CD did not leave my CD player for another 2 years. The best, as usually the case, was yet to come.

I’m not taking anything away from the brilliance that was The Velvet Underground. However, to be completely honest, I think Nico annoyed me to no end. Not quite sure why, talented she may have been, but there was something of a flake persona about her that made me want to White Her Out of the album cover. I did not, but I chose to believe that Uncle Lou and Great-Uncle John Cale were the mad commanders of this whaling ship of sonic nirvana. Nico wasn’t Marianne Faithfull; she was more of an Anita Pallenberg. If you have no idea what I speak of, watch Mick Jagger in the movie Performance and then we’ll talk. Sorry, as usual, got sidetracked. As I was saying, I loved the piss and chips out of that album, but a greater discovery was coming my way, courtesy of my friend.

We were having a discussion about Lou Reed and he threw in that he couldn’t find a copy anywhere of Transformer. I immediately set about finding a copy for him. I did find it, and was able to give him a copy of it on CD for his birthday months later. I went over to hang out with mutual friends, and we were not only stupid drunk, but he was stoned as well,  That was my first listening of Transformer. All I remember was many cigarettes were smoked, i may very well have consumed a whole bottle of Southern Comfort, and many Hot Pockets were consumed in the 1am hour. I do also remember thinking, “Why did I get this motherfucker that CD? I need a copy”. I set out to find a copy. I did eventually find a copy at Beautiful Day in LaGrange, but my greater find was at the Chicagoland Record Show in Hillside, where i found a pristine copy of it on VINYL. Yes, vinyl. I have no idea how rare that is to find, or if it is that rare, but I still have that fucker in plastic. I have never taken it out and played it. I have the CD, which anyone can testify to, is in precarious shape. It is one of my prized possessions.

What did Lou Reed mean to me? Lou Reed meant so many things that I cannot completely scratch the surface with a blog post. There were many evenings of profound despair, depression, and outright ridiculous amounts of alcohol consumption. There remains something about Transformer, even to this day, that inspires me to be just a little bit happier, despite the fact that my life isn’t where I pictured at age 40. It’s not, to my limited knowledge, meant to be a quicker picker upper sort of album. There’s something so effortless, simplistic, and altruistically beautiful about the songs on the album. I know that “Walk On The Wild Side” is the be all and end all song for most Lou Reed fans, but it’s not my favorite by any means. My favorites are “Perfect Day”, “Goodnight Ladies”, “Hangin’ Round”, and “Satellite of Love.” In particular, “Satellite of Love”I even forgave U2 for covering that one, because I think it’s actually a solid version of it. I fucking love that song to death.  The album, top to bottom, was played on a many a dark, bleak evening. And despite whatever sent me down that hill, it never once failed to make me smile. Lou Reed continued to make himself appear in my hemisphere, at odd moments. There was U2 covering “Satellite”which my idiot ex Biceps thought was “an original U2 song”. Please, bitch. In 1995, Duran Duran released their ill-advised and critical turd covers album Thank You. They covered “Perfect Day”I loved it, but more importantly, Uncle Lou loved it. Duran had tried, previously, to cover “Femme Fatale” by the Underground, on their Wedding Album release. Lou did NOT like that version; they’re lucky, they got a chance to right that wrong. The Cowboy Junkies did a great job with “Sweet Jane”. R.E.M., one of my favorite bands, did a great job with “Pale Blue Eyes”However, none of those artists had IT. Lou had IT. And now we have to go on without IT. 

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