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Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side, ‘Transformer’

‘Transformer’ is the second studio album from New Yorker Lou Reed. Released in 1972 and produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, the glam rock record is a powerfully honest depiction of 1970s America and addresses then-controversial subjects such as queerness, drugs, prostitution and gender identity. 

Today, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is often regarded as Lou Reed’s signature tune. Opening with a sliding bass line and an acoustic guitar shuffle, Walk on the Wild Side undoubtedly contains one of the most iconic and recognisable intros in popular music. Reed’s vocals enter and he exclaims, “Holly came from Miami, F.L.A, Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A, Plucked her eyebrows on the way, Shaved her legs and then he was a she, She says “Hey baby, Take a walk on the wild side”. 

And so who was Holly? She was one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars” from the artist’s famous Factory days and one of the first transgender celebrities. With Lou Reed being a strong creative force in New York, he too frequented The Factory, a place where celebrities and artists would hang out, party and create. Walk on the Wild Side documents a background snippet of some of the superstars from The Factory. Each verse tells the story of a different superstar and the first verse refers to Holly Woodlawn. 

At the age of 16, Woodlawn, then known as Haroldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez Danhakl, did in fact run away from her home in Miami and relocated to The Big Apple. It was in New York City that Woodlawn flourished as an actress and one of Warhol’s biggest superstars. 

By Lou Reed telling Woodlawn’s story, he highlights a pivotal moment of not only her life, but of the lives of many people who shared, and continue to share similar experiences. Lou Reed’s social observation and storytelling is raw, bold and full of truth. 

Though Reed’s first solo studio album didn’t land as a hit, ‘Transformer’ propelled the glam rocker to new heights as a solo artist. Today, the record is regarded as a cult classic and features ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Satellite of Love’. 

Head over to The Record Hub to purchase ‘Transformer’ here

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