Goodnight Legends, Goodnight

YOU know that feeling of a sudden realisation of something that had previously passed you by.

That flash of light, the road to Damascus experience, that “OMG how did I miss that?” feeling.

Well, one of those happened to me early this morning.

I was lying in bed, sipping a cup of tea, and ruminating on the death of David Bowie and the other famous artists who have passed away in the last few weeks. Lemmy, Alan Rickman, Dale (Buffin) Griffin and Glenn Frey all came to mind.

Then flash!

David Bowie passed from his Kether to his heavenly Malkuth just 10 short days ago…. and in that moment so passed one of the last musicians responsible for one of the most ground breaking musical albums of all time: Lou Reed’s 1972 release: Transformer.

To this day, Transformer is probably the most universally loved collection of songs Lou Reed recorded as a solo artist.

As with many classic albums, the stars were aligned for this one.

Unlike the tracks that made up his patchy self-titled debut, he didn’t have any material left over from the Velvet Underground days. This forced him to get to work writing.

And what songs these are.

The supposed ode to his drug habit, Perfect Day, only works because, no matter who the song is dedicated to, it is a beautiful ballad.

Then there is the epic, neon-drenched goodbye to his association with Andy Warhol and his factory acolytes, Walk on the Wild Side.  The proto punk swagger of Vicious, the gorgeous Satellite of Love, the snarky brass parp of New York Telephone Conversation and the quirky Goodnight Ladies: every track is a classic.

Of course, having his number one fan David Bowie, along with his guitarist Mick Ronson, trying out new production techniques didn’t hurt.

Forty-four years on, Transformer still sounds startlingly fresh, free from many of the clichés that taint other similarly minded records of the period. Their production work was so loaded that, were it not for the incredibly focused songs beneath, it might have been overbearing.

But with a solid base, the ornate arrangements help bring these songs to life, lending Reed’s music a broader palette.

Lou himself, by contrast, sounds as intimate as ever on the record’s more sedate tracks, crooning in a sensitive lilt that maintains his blissful, effortless cool.

But now the legends of that album have all gone.

The singer, guitarist and the man himself Lou Reed died from liver disease, aged 71, in 2013.

Former Spiders from Mars bassist and trumpet player, Trevor Bolder died from pancreatic cancer the same year, aged 62.

Guitarist, pianist and the album’s chief producer and arranger Mick Ronson died far too young from liver cancer, aged just 46, in 1993.

Sax player Ronnie Ross died in London in 1991 aged 58.

Drummer Barry De Souza also died in London in 2009.

Fellow drummer on the album Ritchie Dharma died in 2003.

And, of course, producer, backing vocalist, keyboards and acoustic guitarist David Bowie joined the ethereal band after succumbing to cancer on 10 January this year, aged 69.

Only ageing British bassist Herbie Flowers, 77, and engineer Ken Scott, 68, still survive from the original album line-up.

A good man can be measured by his friends, and Lou Reed certainly had some good ones on Transformer.

Goodnight legends, goodnight.

 

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Author: seagullnic

Writer, editor, lecturer and part-time musician. Passions in life: my family, Bob Dylan, music of many genres, Brighton and Hove Albion FC, cooking plus good food and wine.

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