Have you ever had one of those months where you seem to run into Lou Reed everywhere? Lou Reed in magazines, on the radio, in your friends’ car stereos, in conversation? Quite right, neither have I. But as of this October, I have. And I’m convinced it has everything to do with business school.
Now, Mr. Reed does not generally qualify as ‘pop-tart appealing’ vis-a-vis the music and culture glossies (being named ‘Lou’ usually nixes that up front, and this particular Lou has the added burden of not being especially ‘Moulin’-looking). Yet, this month, the Dark Prince of New York gets time across Blender, VF and Rolling Stone. Fancy magazines are fine, but Reed on the radio? Alright, I have heard him on the radio before. But Lou Reed imported into the sporty, 4-door import of an HBS first-year? All in the space of 3 weeks? What gives?
First, I give in and get over to Tower Records, and there it is: “Transformer” (RCA), 30 years later, re-released. The washed-out and beautiful “Perfect Day”, the classic NYC downtown snapshot “Walk on the Wild Side”, the lazy bounce of “Satellite of Love”, and even some new acoustic demos- all there in a nifty new package. I buy it, I take it home, I listen to it, and, to belie my 80’s upbringing, it is mint.
So I wondered if that was it for Lou, for me running into him every day and all. His record company has a new release I picked up on the media push I transacted accordingly. Cycle complete. However, as I listened further into the moods and misfit weirdos that inhabit the midnight fringe of Reed’s New York, I saw the true force pushing me to this record: Lou Reed’s art rock/glam/pop icon is all about business school.
Actually, this is not at all true. But, as I got into listening, there were enough flimsy, entertaining parallels to HBS that I decided not to fight the easy way out of my first contribution to the Harbus. So, on with “Transfomer.”
When originally released in 1972, “Transformer” was both hailed as a popular breakthrough and denounced as a commercial sellout (I’m not pointing any fingers, but largely because newspapers are limited to 2D). Produced by David Bowie, then the emerging star of 70’s British glam-rock, the sound of ‘Transfomer” had a Ziggy Stardust sheen that struck some critics as an economically-motivated departure from Reed’s raw, gritty style developed during his years with the Velvet Underground (a small, performing arts non-profit company in New York).
While “Transformer” suffered the slights of some vocal critics, over time, it proved itself not only an unbeatable record to just hang out and listen to, but also an influential, must-have piece of New York rock.
“Transformer” offers a perfect introduction to the 1970’s New York music scene (Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, Television) now being dutifully revisited by The Strokes, et al. It also shows the evolution of late 60’s New York counterculture alongside (and under the influence of) 70’s London glam (again, Bowie is all over this album), and lays a stone in the foundation for the late 70’s CBGB punk scene. Clearly things we all need to be thinking about while here.
What gave “Transformer” all this power to entertain, to illustrate and influence? Well, nearly every song was about getting an MBA. Again, they weren’t, but on to the track-by-track run down of “Transformer” vs. you, me and the mean streets of Soldiers Field:
1.Vicious (The HBS comparisons pick up with the second title, skip this one.)
2. Andy’s Chest (Priscilla Ball Movement I)
3. Perfect Day (Lou may or may not be talking about illicit substances here. For us, let’s say 2 case day, TGIF, etc. The kids that hang around with Lou during this one are not future MBA’s.)
4. Hangin Around (Skip this one too. We do not do this.)
5. Walk on the Wild Side (THE classic Lou Reed track of course. You all know this song, as well you should. It was originally titled ‘Priscilla Ball Movement III’)
6. Make Up (Priscilla Ball Movement II)
7. Satellite of Love (For everyone going to New York for that special someone)
8. Wagon Wheel (High Tech startup recruiting on campus this year)
9. New York Telephone Conversation (For everyone calling said special someone)
10. I’m So Free (Sing it, Lou. 20 minutes between every class, bro.)
11. Goodnight Ladies (Lou goes home alone. Well, the similarities had to end somewhere.)
The 30th Anniversary edition also comes with two bonus tracks: acoustic demo versions of “Hangin Around” and “Perfect Day”. The latter of which is reason enough to own it, if a guide to your life at HBS isn’t enough.