Transformer: A Story of Glitter, Glam Rock, and Loving Lou Reed

HarperOne. Nov. 2022. 160p. ISBN 9780063259515. $25.99. MUSIC
In 1972, Lou Reed, singer/songwriter and former member of the Velvet Underground, released his second solo album Transformer, an album that combined Reed’s “gritty side with the perfume of sophistication and camp,” according to fashion writer Doonan (How To Be Yourself: Life-Changing Advice from a Reckless Contrarian). The book’s pop-culture history of the creation, reception, and legacy of the landmark glam rock album (featuring one of Reed’s most enduring songs, “Walk on the Wild Side”) is interspersed with Doonan’s memories of his own youth and his interest in the record. Reed was quoted as saying he made the album because it was “dreary for gay people to have to listen to straight people’s love songs,” and Doonan gives special consideration to Transformer’s acceptance by queer audiences. In conversational and witty prose, this slim but informative book also has a song-by-song commentary, an account of Reed’s life leading up to Transformer, and an appreciation of one of the album’s producers, David Bowie.
VERDICT Doonan’s blend of personal reflection and cultural history offers a unique, entertaining, and fascinating portrait of a rock masterpiece that will be appreciated by music fans as well as those interested in LGBTQ+ social history.
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