Updated: Oct 31
Unleashing the Wild: Lou Reed's Transformer
It was around the age of 16 when I first tuned in to the radio and stumbled upon the talk-singing style of Lou Reed. It struck me as detached and dispassionate yet incredibly direct, almost like a conversation. At that point in time, I didn't grasp the lyrics, but it seemed evident that Reed used this style deliberately to convey something important, something that would grab your attention. What truly piqued my curiosity, however, was how he weaved melodies into his delivery, effectively transforming his voice into an instrument. The song that served as my introduction to his unique universe was "Walk on the Wild Side."
Decades ago, my high school buddies and I began a tradition – a sacred annual gathering during the holiday season to celebrate our enduring friendship. Bonded by our shared passion for music, our tradition came with a unique twist – a vinyl exchange. The anticipation surrounding this ceremony was almost as electric as the holidays themselves. Year after year, we exchanged carefully selected vinyl albums. The sheer joy in the room was palpable as we unwrapped our musical treasures. Once the exchange concluded, we'd gather around the dinner table, our cherished albums on display, waiting to be placed on the turntable.
It was on one of these cherished evenings that my dear friend Memo handed me Lou Reed's "Transformer." I had eagerly shared my discovery of this extraordinary artist with my friends, extolling the gritty, unconventional beauty of his music. Memo, always dedicated and resourceful, had scoured import stores to obtain it, as it wasn't readily available in Mexico. The room buzzed with anticipation as I unwrapped the album, revealing its iconic cover. However, it was the music that truly enraptured us, particularly "Walk on the Wild Side." Its infectious rhythm and uncontainable energy prompted a spontaneous eruption of “Indian tribe” dance, our feet guiding us around the dining room table. For what felt like hours, we moved to the song's hypnotic beat, spinning and laughing. As the night grew long and the effects of our festive spirits set in, some in our group gradually succumbed to the embrace of the couches. But for Memo and me, the enchantment of the song was far from over. We kept the record spinning until dawn.
Over the decades, "Transformer" has solidified its status as an icon of rock music and a pinnacle of glam rock. The album, produced by none other than David Bowie, a fan of Reed, boasts not only the widely recognized "Wild Side" but also enduring classics like "Satellite of Love" and "Vicious." The connection between Lou Reed and Andy Warhol, which initially formed during the Velvet Underground era, remained steadfast. Testimony to this is the fact that the characters described in some of the songs were part of Warhol's inner circle.
With time, as I delved deeper into Lou Reed's lyrical narratives, I began to uncover the essence of the real Lou Reed. It was somewhat uncomfortable to confront the gritty, unvarnished realities he painted in his lyrics. "Walk on the Wild Side," in particular, broached subjects that compelled me to examine my own biases and preconceived notions.
Lou Reed's music, I eventually realized, wasn't designed merely for entertainment; it was a mirror reflecting the complex, multifaceted world in which we live. It encouraged me to dig beneath the surface, question my beliefs, and acknowledge the diversity of human experiences. In this way, Lou Reed's work served as a powerful catalyst for personal growth, enriching my perspective in ways that continue to resonate.