"I really wanted it to work for him, and be a memorable album."
David Bowie recalls the recording of the 'Transformer' LP
during the shooting of the BBC's all-star 'Perfect Day' video.
They'll bury you in velvet, And place you underground...
"I was petrified that he said yes he would like to sort of work with me in a producer capacity, because I had so many ideas and I felt so intimidated by my knowledge of the work that he had already done. And, even though there was only that short time between us, it seemed like Lou had this great legacy of work." - David Bowie on the terrifying prospect of producing Lou Reed.
ITV in the UK are scheduled to show the latest in the third 'Classic Albums' series: Lou Reed's 'Transformer'. Released commercially last month on DVD and video through Eagle Vision, 'Transformer' is due for broadcast here in the new year. The documentary really is a treat for Lou Reed fans, and it's a fascinating look at the recording techniques of the early Seventies, and at the formidable Bowie/Ronson production team.
"I never had kids screaming at me particularly. They'd scream at David,
not at me...Me they would throw syringes and joints on the stage."
Including exclusive interviews with Lou, and new acoustic performances of songs from the album by him, the documentary follows Lou's career from the early days with Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, illustrated with rare footage of both. There are also interviews with some of the Warhol 'Superstars' that populate songs like 'Walk on the Wild Side', such as Holly Woodlawn and Joe Dallesandro and other characters from The Factory such as Gerard Malanga.
'Transformer' also uses rare archive footage and interviews with David Bowie and Mick Ronson (all the grabs in this item are taken from it), and talks to the original engineer Ken Scott. As we mentioned in our 'Hunky Dory' piece on Monday, you will know the name Ken Scott as co-producer with David of 'Hunky Dory', 'Ziggy Stardust', 'Aladdin Sane' and 'Pin-Ups'.
"Woody, you stay here. Me 'n Ronno are just nipping back to
last year to do Lou's album." A rare bit of backstage footage
of Ziggy and the Spiders from the 'Transformer' documentary.
As is the normal format for programmes in this series, Scott and Reed re-visit the original multi-track master tapes and dissect the construction of some of the songs. Particularly thrilling moments include an emotional a cappella playback of David's incredible 'Satellite of Love' backing vocals (a vocal line that none of the cover versions of the song have dared attempt) and an amusing focus on David's highly camp, Warholesque counterpoint to Lou's character in 'New York Telephone Conversation'.
Elsewhere, Mick Rock talks about the iconic 'Transformer' album cover he was responsible for, and makes a few observations on the whole scene in the way that only such a valuable eye-witness can. Herbie Flowers demonstrates how one of the most famous riffs in popular music, the bassline to 'Walk on the Wild Side', was recorded, and Musician Dave Stewart tells of Lou Reed?s musical influence as do musician Lenny Kaye, editor of Rolling Stone David Fricke, biographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and journalist Tony Stewart.
"So David...I'll play at your 50th if you do 'White Light, White Heat'
on your next few tours." Lou 'n' David contemplate a bright future.
There can't be many reading this not already familiar with this classic recording. Originally released 29 years ago on December 8th, an example of its lasting endurance is the fact that it recently re-entered the Top 20 Album Chart in the UK when it was re-issued as a budget price compact disc.
Reading like a Lou Reed greatest hits package, the original album boasts at least four all-time classic rock songs in: 'Vicious', 'Perfect Day', 'Walk on the Wild Side' and 'Satellite of Love'. And, apart from these, the documentary also looks at 'I'm So Free', 'Andy's Chest', the aforementioned 'New York Telephone Conversation', 'Make Up' and 'Goodnight Ladies'. Sadly there is no mention of David's contribution to the song 'Wagon Wheel' for which he is generally reckoned to be an un-credited co-writer of.
'Transformer' DVD cover.
If 'Transformer' isn't scheduled for a television broadcast in your territory, you may want to treat yourself to the DVD anyway, as it contains extra interview footage not included on either the video or the TV broadcast. Even if you aren't a fan of Lou Reed's work (?????), 'Transformer' is worth checking out for the occasional glimpses of the ghost of Ziggy that are scattered throughout.