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 City in the summer of 1970.
Transformer was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, who had been strongly influenced by Reed's work with the Velvet Underground. The album features some of Reed's best-known songs such as "Walk on the Wild Side", "Perfect Day" and "Satellite of Love", and made him 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.
|1972||Billboard Pop Albums||29|
|1973||UK Albums Chart||13|
|1973||"Walk on the Wild Side"||Billboard Pop Singles||16|
|1973||"Walk on the Wild Side"||UK Singles Chart||10|
The TV show "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" named its spaceship setting after Satellite of Love.