Rescued From The Fire: Warren Ellis on Lou Reed’s Transformer

An ongoing series in which we ask artists the record they’d risk life and limb to save from a burning inferno

Warren Ellis is the award-winning creator and writer of graphic novels such as Fell, Ministry Of Space and Transmetropolitan whose social commentary comes masked as science fiction laced with acerbic wit. Not only was his comic series Red made into a major motion picture starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich in 2010, as a blogger, he writes frequently about music – and we first met him at a Kode9 & Spaceape performance – making him the perfect candidate to face our trial by fire.

Lou Reed Transformer (1972, RCA Victor) 

As a teenager in the 80s, I was fascinated by the 60s. But the 60s of Warhol’s Factory, rather than the flowery and somehow faintly musky San Francisco scene. As a poor kid who could only afford to listen to music on the radio, I was as much a neophile as any of the John Peel generations, but I loved the music documentaries too, and read as much as was available to me. Until, like anyone with that interest, I began to wonder what happened to all those people. What happened next.

And then a girlfriend bought me Transformer for Christmas. And, aside from the record’s obvious charms, it told me what happened next. It told me something happened next. That there could be an Act Two in creative lives, and that it could in fact be richer in many ways than the fireworks of Act One. That maybe Act One was for learning, rather than peaking. Which, in those days of music journalism announcing that every band was over and done with by their second album, was kind of an interesting perspective. Especially to someone who wanted to be a writer in the late 20th Century, seeing careers shrink rather than telescope as globalised creative churn began to take hold.

So, for me, today, it’s Transformer, because that record tells me there’s always another chance to use what I’ve learned, and that there’s always another chance to get it right.

By Warren Ellis on August 3, 2012

On a different note