TRANSFORMER:

THE LOU REED STORY

BY VICTOR BOCKRIS

REVIEWED BY B. D. Poe
bdpoe@aol.com

For a while Lou Reed was a friend and pseudo protégé 
of Andy Warhol. A crystal metharine speed freak, an 
abuser of hard drugs that rivaled Keith Richards’ 
legendary addiction-Reed became the epitome of 
hipness and a major influence in the world of Rock 
and Roll. His poetically dark lyrics, avante garde 
styling and minimalist production established him 
as one of the remaining luminaries of modern music.

Victor Bockris delivers a shocking exposition of 
Reed’s character and personal history in TRANSFORMER. 
Much like Bockris’ earlier work KEITH RICHARDS: 
THE BIOGRAPHY, this is not a pretty book. It deals 
with dark interpersonal secrets and jabs at 
emotional underpinnings dissecting Reed’s psyche 
and self made mythology.

At 17 Reed  lived in an upper middle class
 environment with neighbors such as Leo Carillo, 
who played Pancho in The Cisco Kid and June Lockhart, 
Lassie’s mom on TV.  To cure young Lou Reed of 
homosexual feelings and mood swings he was put 
through some 24 electro shock treatments which 
left him numb and  an amnesiac. But these did 
little to straighten out the teenage Lou Reed. 
The shock treatments seemed to solidify his 
rebelliousness and for much of his life he 
struggled with jealous rage and mood swings.

  When Lou and The Velvet Underground performed 
their first gig produced by Andy Warhol it was a 
bizarre multimedia happening at a dinner for 
psychiatrists. It was Lou’s turn to electrify 
the shrinks shocking them with a
wild rendition of Heroin.They became part of 
Warhol’s traveling entourage all dressed in black, 
all on drugs, and all acting out ego traumas and 
fantasies they were a sensation wherever they played.    

  The Velvet Underground went on to inspire Jim 
Morrison of the Doors and allegedly influenced the 
Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, Street 
Fighting Man and Jumpin’ Jack Flash with Reed’s 
plagal-cadence songs. Years after their demise 
some critics would claim that The Velvet 
Underground was the second most influential rock 
band of the 1960s after the Beatles.

  When David Bowie went to New York to sign with RCA, 
he was thrilled to meet one of his idols-Lou Reed. 
It was Bowie who produced Lou’s TRANSFORMER album 
which produced the hit song "Walk ON The Wild Side" 
a musical portrait of characters from Warhol’s 
factory. At that point Bowie, Reed and Marc Bolan of 
T.Rex seemed to become the founding fathers of Glam Rock.

Hooking up with Steve Katz, the former lead guitarist 
from Blood Sweat and Tears, Reed released a live album
of Velvet Underground covers on the successful ROCK 
AND ROLL ANIMAL LP. But the Katz-Reed collaboration 
was short lived, ending in the same turmoil that broke 
up the Velvet Underground and the Bowie-Reed partnership. 
Lou’s insistence for complete control, refusal to share 
songwriting credits and his unpredictable personality 
tended to damage both professional and personal 
relationships.

Bockris recounts an amusing story of Lou Reed 
interviewing Vaclav Havel , writer, dissident and 
now president of Czechoslavakia for The Rolling Stone 
magazine. The outcome was so disastrous that the 
interview went unpublished .When Havel visited the 
Clinton white house he asked that Lou. Reed perform 
in his honor despite the previously botched interview.

Throughout TRANSFOMER Lou Reed is often Linked with 
and compared to Edgar Allen Poe. Supposedly, Reed’s 
next venture entitled POE-TRY will address the 
connection. Reeds most listenable works include:

SONGS FOR DRELLA, 1990. (a Tribute to Warhol with 
John Cale) NEW YORK, 1989. (Depicts the dark side 
of the Big Apple) MAGIC &  LOSS, 1992.(Deals with 
grief and transformation) LIVE IN ITALY, 1984. 
(German Import- His best Live album) SET THE TWILIGHT 
REELING, 1996.

The Velvet Underground  and Lou Reed collections 
are available in box sets. Reed’s METAL MACHINE MUSIC 
and PERFECT NIGHT (1998-LIVE) do not do the artist 
justice and should be avoided.


BDPoe@aol.com

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