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V: 1967 Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground & Nico 1. Someone should have kicked Andy Warhol in the balls for letting Nico sing for Velvet Underground. It is not only that she couldn't sing, Lou can't sing neither. But he is cool whereas she was just a bore. Her vocal delivery is so devoid of any expression that it makes me want to run up the walls. Nowadays even computer voices are more passionate.
  1. There was a time when I was stunned how well Femme Fatale (much better when sung by Lou) described the women I fell in love with. The women I was interested in were seemed to be men-eating monsters. But later on I understood: a femme fatale is only fatal for herself as Nico's destiny proves.

  2. A hint to the background choir on Femme Fatale: "femme" is pronounced like "hum" and not like "hem". It took me ages to find out what they were singing. I heard She's a perfect drag or She's a perfect girl or even She's a perfect hell instead of She's a femme fatale due to this pronunciation mistake.

  3. The first Velvet Underground album is the beginning of a new age in rock music. Rock music becomes exciting. It suddenly is about the things that matter to young adults, the real stuff. Drugs, parties and sexual relationships. Before there was only Dylan and the Beatles. Tame stuff for pussies. Whereas Dylan made serious music for serious people the Beatles made light weight music for teenage girls. I am exaggerating here but in a way it is true.

  4. Lou's voice has never been as soothing as on Sunday Morning, the album opener. A dreamy lullaby with a beautiful simple xylophone line. Also the perfect music to wake up to on a Sunday morning. Though it doesn't prepare the listener for things to come on this album it already has some allusions in the lyrics which make clear that there is something dark hiding behind the light pop tune.

Watch out, the world‘s behind you, there’s always someone watching you
is persectution mania described in nuce. The full lyrics of the album are here.
  1. I'm Waiting for the Man and Heroin are the most realistic songs on drugs I know. I still don't like the "tune" of Heroin too much but John Cale's viola massacre at the end of the song is absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Many bands I adore are unthinkable without the Velvets: the Feelies, Steve Wynn's Dream Syndicate, Yo La Tengo, Galaxie 500, Luna, Giant Sand, Eleventh Dream Day, REM, Gun Club, Sonic Youth, Cowboy Junkies, Jesus and Mary Chain, Modern Lovers, Patti Smith etc.

  3. I love the garage sound of Lou Reed's and Sterling Morrison's guitars, John Cale's viola play which transforms the classical instrument into a deep-cutting knife, and Maureen Tucker whose drumming sounds as if she was hitting garbage cans.

  4. The Velvet Underground & Nico is not my favourite VU album (without Nico it would be my fave though). But it is the most varied one. It comprises their relaxed melodic side which was going to be focussed on on The Velvet Underground and Loaded and their noisy abrasive side which would be explored further on White Light/White Heat.

  5. For the first time my readers and I agree on the best album of a year. Almost 50% voted for VU's debut here.

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part V was this post.


Re: V: 1967 Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

I have a lot of trouble with your assertion that the VU were the first 'exciting'band, or that they were the ones who put all the sex, drugs, and partying into rock music - I mean, the most obvious retort would be "The Rolling Stones", or even a lot of the obscure Nuggets-style garage and psychedelia of the time. And "excitement"? I'm of the opinion that there's a lot more excitement to be heard in Motown, Stax/Volt, and all the rest of the r+b of the 60s than anywhere in the VU catalog, not to mention the massive progress in jazz at the time, or that its extremely unfair to The Beatles to write them off as teenybopper music right off the back of Revolver.

It's also very presumptuous to assume that the VU's subject matter was what "really mattered" to a lot of people - the charm of the VU's lyrics was that it chronicled the lives of hipsters and people on the fringe, it was subject matter just off the beaten path, and I'm sure it was extremely exotic at the time. But so few people heard this album in 1967, that it even suggesting that it was a real alternative for most people at the time is something of a weak argument. It was a record about hipsters by hipsters for hipsters.

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Re: Re: V: 1967 Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

You are right Matthew, I probably generalized too much in that part of my post. My evaluation of VU is very subjective. The Rolling Stones did treat similar subjects but much less convincingly I find. In my personal view VU's music did age extremely well what can't be said about most music of the time. Instead of "exciting" I maybe should have used "modern". There is a tension and intensity in their music which I don't find anywhere else in the sixties. R+B is an obvious influence of VU which they melded with pop, noise and modern classical elements. There is something extremely distinctive and original about their music which makes it exciting to me.

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last updated: 12/8/21, 5:41 PM
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