Certain Songs #974: Lou Reed – “Vicious”

Album: Transformer
Year: 1972

While Lou Reed’s first solo album was chock full of “interesting” remakes of then-unreleased Velvet Underground songs, the follow-up was arguably the first place he found his voice as a solo artist.

Hooking up with David Bowie and his ringer guitarist, Mick Ronson, Reed’s transformation into a glam-rocker felt almost natural, and he didn’t even really have to change his subject matter all that much, and in fact, Transformer is probably the most Factory-focused album (outside of Songs For Drella, of course) in his career.

And that’s right from the opening track, “Vicious,” whose famous opening line was basically suggested by Andy Warhol. That said, what gets “Vicious” over every time is the combination of those words as drolly sung by Reed.

Vicious
You hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
Oh, baby, you’re so vicious

Also helping: the latest in simple, elemental guitar riffs that Lou Reed could seemingly manufacture at will — in this case, a cowbell-driven inversion of the “Sweet Jane” riff, over which Mick Ronson could work his magic.

And indeed, Ronson is all over “Vicious,” tossing in quick knife slashes during the verses, and flipping the switch into full freak-out mode after the choruses. His lead guitar made for a great contrast: the rest of the music and of course Lou’s vocals were completely in control at all times, but, especially at the end, his guitar felt like it was tumbling off of a cliff.

“Vicious”

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