“Transformer” is a new, limited edition collection of photographs, some never-before-seen, that chart the transformations of poet and performer Lou Reed from 1972-1980. The book presents the man behind the cover photographs of “Transformer”, “Sally Can’t Dance”, “Coney Island Baby”, “Rock and Roll Heart”, and “Growing Up in Public”. Photographer Mick Rock captured Lou Reed in the studio; performing onstage; in his hotel room; and with friends including David Bowie, Nico, Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, and Andy Warhol. The book is published by Genesis Publications, a company that, according to The New York Times, “are creators of lushly designed rock photo books.” Founded in England by the late Brian Royce in 1974, Genesis is inspired by William Morris, the 19th century English textile designer, artist and writer, under whose influence the private press in Britain flourished, creating books that were works of art in themselves.
The photographs that comprise the numbered and signed books were each chosen by Rock and Reed. The title is in reference to not only Reed’s seminal second studio album that debuted in November, 1972, but to the protean Reed himself. “Transformer” the album, which in a 1997 “Music of the Millennium” poll by the HMV Group in the United Kingdom, was named 44th greatest album of all time, reignited Reed’s career and insured his position in the constellation of music’s monoliths. “Walk on the Wild Side”, the best known track from the album, the title of which came from the 1956 Nelson Algren novel, is an anthem of an era that is today a distant echo. With its references to the “superstars” of Andy Warhol’s Factory, drugs, transsexuality, male prostitution, and oral sex, it is an aural document of the brief, shining moment of Manhattan’s grittier, glammier, harder core; a moment that has been superseded by the depthless pop of today’s celebrity performers.
It is obvious, from the intimate nature of the photographs, that Rock was part of Reed’s inner circle. This access allowed him to capture a side of the poet and musician’s nature that offers a glimpse of a creative life that seemed to evolve in each moment. The friendship between the two artists is plainly evident as well, as the trust Reed placed in Rock’s vision is clear in the confidential and familiar quality of the images. Reed had such faith in Rock’s eye that when Rock proposed an out-of-focus image for the cover of “Transformer”, Reed agreed and the shot has become one of the indelible images of the Rock/Reed ouvre.
For a private event at Soho House NY, Rock played “Transformer” and discussed his collaboration and relationship with Reed, as he screened some of the images from the book to a filled to capacity room. He read aloud from the foreword of the book and talked about his early days as a novice photographer and later answered questions from the audience. Reed himself dropped by to address the crowd, and gave a few words in praise of his long-time friend. The evening marked the inaugural listenting club of high50, a website that bills itself as a global community for people over the age of 50 “who believe the journey, in all its wonder, has only just begun”. The album was played as it was meant to be heard, vinyl spun on the high performance McIntosh MT10, a $9,500 turntable with the sound emanating through XRT1K speakers. Avion Tequila was the booze of choice for an evening that inlcuded two full listens to both sides of the album.
The Signed Limited Edition Book