Every great record has a narrative. Only the most ambitious concept albums have a narrative imposed by the artist, but every great record has a narrative that is imagined by the listener. Because a great record takes you on a journey, which becomes a story we tell ourselves about that experience. Hence, an emotional narrative uniquely your own, soundtrack courtesy of your favorite musician. And since every narrative has an arc, every record has an exact climax, an emotional high point. On Transformer that moment arrives exactly at 2:49, track seven, when David Bowie comes in with the high notes. From then on it’s all afterglow.
“You made me forget myself/I thought I was someone else/Someone good…”
What a romantic reverie. What a perfect, perfect song. Everybody who wrote, produced and performed it is dead now. Rest in peace, Lou. Rest in peace, Bowie. Rest in peace, Mick Ronson. I’m glad to have spent some years with you.
From the formation of the Velvet Underground in the mid-sixties until his death in 2013, Lou Reed ruled as the punk poet laureate of New York City. For more than one generation of rock fans, no one did more to create a popular image of the city. Throughout the decades, Reed explored New York City life from every angle, from the dingiest to the most elevated. Sometimes the view he presented was glamorous and inviting, sometimes it was gritty and muckraking. A lot of times, it was just a view of ordinary life, with its usual ordinary ups and downs. Very occasionally, it was satirical as well. This song is a little bit of a novelty, a funny snippet often overlooked on an album that’s front-loaded with classic of the glamorous stripe. But though it’s one of his most humorous songs, it’s also a genuine sigh of weariness, an observation of how exhausting and inane it feels to go through the motions of being social, and the loneliness of not being able to be social in any meaningful way. It doesn’t have to take place in New York, either, but it’s way cooler that it does.