Albums You Must Own Number 5 – The Velvet Underground And Nico by The Velvet Underground
1967 was a fantastic year for music and spawned a number of albums that arguably could make this list:- ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ – The Beatles; ‘Are You Experienced?’ – Jimi Hendrix; ‘Strange Days’ and ‘The Doors’ – The Doors; ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ – Pink Floyd to name just a few. But for me one album stood above even these magnificent pieces ‘The Velvet Underground And Nico’ by The Velvet Underground.
The Velvet Underground released a total of five albums. Yet one album – their masterpiece ‘The Velvet Underground And Nico’ brought all their experimental music and influence by Warhols The Factory together. Released five years before Lou Reed released his own great album ‘Transformer’ the late 60’s and early 70’s was a period when Lou was on fire with his song writing and with John Cale also in The Velvet Underground before his departure in 1968 their collaboration produced some amazing songs.
One of the most memorable aspects of this album is the iconic cover. The album cover is famous for its Warhol design: a yellow banana sticker with “Peel slowly and see” printed near the tip. Those who did remove the banana skin found a pink, peeled banana beneath.
This was the debut album from the band and at Warhol‘s insistence, Nico sang with the band on three songs. The album was recorded primarily in Scepter Studios in New York City during April 1966. (Some songs were re-recorded, along with the new song “Sunday Morning”, later in the year with Tom Wilson producing). It was released by Verve Records in March 1967.
The album consists of eleven great tracks:
1. Sunday Morning
2. I’m Waiting For The Man
3. Femme Fatale
4. Venus In Furs
5. Run Run Run
6. All Tomorrow’s Parties
8. There She Goes Again
9. I’ll Be Your Mirror
10. Black Angel’s Death Song
11. European Son
These tracks are as gritty and dark as anything in Reed’s later works with tracks like ‘Heroin’ lasting over seven minutes and taking you on a very dark journey. This in turn was countered by shades of light in songs like ‘Sunday Morning’. Anyone will know that after a night of excess this is the song to play.
Lou Reed is a poet at heart and if the music is removed what you are left with are the poems. In ‘Transformer’ you can do this with every track. In this album there are also some shining examples.
Look at these extracts to get what I mean:
‘Venus In Furs’
I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears
‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’
I’ll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you’re home
‘Black Angel’s Death Song’
Cut mouth bleeding razor’s
Forgetting the pain
Antiseptic remains cool goodbye
So you fly
To the cozy brown snow of the east
Gone to choose, choose again
For me this album takes me back to a short time of parties and excess when this was all that I wanted to hear. I still listen to the album now and was delighted when this October ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary re-mastered’ album was released. This hugely indulgent re-issue includes a new stereo re-master of the album, a new mono remaster (both taken from the original tapes), a disc of alternate versions and mixes of the songs, a disc of practice sessions recorded at Andy Warhol’s Factory, a live recording from around the time the album was recorded (spread across two discs), and a remaster of Nico‘s solo debut, ‘Chelsea Girl’, which the Velvets performed on. So aside from the 45 minutes of ‘Chelsea Girl’, you’ve got five hours of essentially the same 11 songs presented over and over in various levels of audio fidelity.
Submerge yourself in The Velvet Underground one more time.
Review by Doug Duffin