Lou Reed has been many things including incorrigible, experimental and humorous. The notorious rock critic, Lester Bangs, once described the “Phantom of Rock” as a “poison death dwarf”. Maybe he was, but he also produced one of the most varied and consistent solo careers in music, and certainly kept his fans on their feet. These are his five key albums from the early 1970s when Laughing Lou was at the peak of his commercial success. Beware, one may contain a David Bowie production-
Transformer (1972): Indispensable The bona fide pop album, imbued with an effervescent sheen. By far Reed’s most accessible album, it features some of his best known songs including Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day (also immortalised in Danny Boyle’s Transpotting). The kind of album which everybody has.
Berlin (1973): The troubled one A stark, melodramatic play captured on record and symbolises a now characteristic U-turn in his Reed’s career from the sparkle of Transformer, it chronicles the lives of drug-addled youngsters in the European city. It’s bleak but there was a reason that this majestic effort is the only Top 10 album Reed has had in this country to date.
Sally Can’t Dance (1974) Lou’s ‘dance’ album Reed said he had virtually nothing to do with this album, so it was of course his only US Top 10 entry. The album is dominated by the buouyant Sally Can’t Dance, a black-humoured little ditty which talks about a girl who can’t get off of the floor because she’s taken too much of a certain narcotic, but it is a real mid 70s period piece with a strong disco influence and brass horns.
Rock and Roll Animal (1974): Transformer’s little baby brother Lou pulls out all the stops here, as it’s jam packed full of strong melodies and hooks and features a crack backing band resplendent in handlebar moustaches. But a massive change was just around the corner in the shape of…
Metal Machine Music (1975): Quite possibly the most demanding but interesting album in history, which is impossible to listen to all the way through and describe in a sentence. Best listened to when you aren’t doing much the music, if it can be called that, hits the listener like a screeching blizzard. Simultaneously unbearable, impressive and slightly comic, a symphony of feedback envelops us and after a few repeated listens and a initial desire to turn it off you begin to notice the hypnotic, swirling quality in what you hear which becomes oddly beautiful. The influence that this has had on recent bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Mogwai cannot be understated. It may well have been a joke, but only Lou knows the answer.