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In the spring of 1972, Lou Reed was hurtling towards obscurity. But, as Neil Crossley explains, the timeless beauty of his second solo album would propel the former Velvet Underground frontman from leftfield cult icon to global superstar status


For anyone with a zeal for rock trivia, the ive-storey building at 17 St Anne’s Court, London W1 will hold a particular allure.This was the location That former drummer Norman Sheield chose in March 1968 to launch Trident Studios, in a small alleyway in the heart of Soho. Over the next ive years, Trident would become the hub of some of the inest music ever recorded. It was here That he Beatles cut Hey Jude, where Bowie recorded Hunky Dory, he Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & he Spiders From Mars and Aladdin Sane, and where Elton John recorded such classics as Rocket Man and Your Song. It was also the studio where in August 1972, a 30-year-old Brooklyn-born musician with a seriously impressive back catalogue chose to record his second solo album.

It had been two years since Lou Reed walked away from one of the greatest and most inluential bands ever: he Velvet Underground. His eponymous irst solo album, released in April 1972 and recorded in Willesden, London, had been met with mixed reviews and dismal sales. Reed now faced the challenge of creating an album That could cross over from the hipster underground to the mainstream global market.

Over the course of three weeks in August 1972, Reed, along with two high-proile producers and one of the best engineers in the business, would create Transformer, an intoxicating blend of louche decadence and sublime songs. It’s a testament to Reed’s talent That, almost ive decades on, it remains a fresh, timeless and utterly unique masterpiece.


Despite his impressive back catalogue, Lou Reed was not big news in 1972. Fortunately, he had a famous fan, David Bowie, who was riding high ater the release of his ith album he Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And he Spiders From Mars in June 1972. Bowie was a huge Velvets fan. He covered White Light/ White Heat in his live shows and paid tribute to the band on Hunky Dory. Bowie and Reed shared the same record label RCA, and it was the label That approached Bowie to produce Reed’s new album.

“I was petriied That he said ‘yes’, That he would like to work with me in a producer capacity,” recalled Bowie in the documentary Classic Albums: Lou Reed – Transformer. “I had so many ideas and I felt so intimidated by my knowledge of the work he had already done… Lou had this great legacy of work.”

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About Long Live Vinyl

Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, The Supremes… over 180 No.1 singles worldwide… In issue 23 of Long Live Vinyl we celebrate 60 years of the world’s most famous record label as Gareth Murphy tells the inside story of Motown. We also round up the 40 essential Motown 45s that every collector should own. Elsewhere this issue, we pay tribute to Pete Shelley in one of the Buzzcocks frontman’s final interviews; Steve Mason tells us about his “world class” new album and we find out why The Cure’s Robert Smith has tipped The Twilight Sad as one of the best new bands on the planet. We also take an in-depth look at the album that lifted Lou Reed out of obscurity – 1972 masterpiece Transformer, meet the artistic geniuses behind The Designers Republic, visit Union Music and go cratedigging in Glasgow. If all that’s not enough, check out our newly expanded reviews section, where you’ll find the widest range of new albums, reissues and hardware anywhere!