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May 21, 2007 | by  | in Music |
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An album you should own if you don’t already…

according to Salient feature writer, Nicola Kean

The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground

Someone once said that although The Velvet Underground’s debut album sold poorly, everyone who bought a copy started their own band. Produced by Andy Warhol and, upon its release in 1967, banned in some record stores because of its subject content – The Velvet Underground and Nico only reached the legendary status it deserves a good twenty years after it was recorded.

And that’s because while bands such as The Beatles were busy singing about bubblegummy love, VU was breaking societal taboos – singing about sexual deviance and being fucked up on heroin, S&M, the ache of waiting for your dealer, and the empty life of one of Warhol’s followers. You’ll find everything you wanted to know about the seedy underbelly of the 60’s in this album.

The Velvet Underground and Nico showcases the true genius of the Lou Reed/John Cale combination before it all got ugly and fell apart. Combined with Cale’s composition (and screeching viola), Reed’s lyrics create an album that is both a challenging and rewarding listen. The full breadth of Reed’s song writing talent is displayed, from the soft, obvious single ‘Sunday Morning,’ to the drug-addled roughness of ‘Heroin,’ to the tender love song ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror.’

As an album that was remarkably ahead of its time, The Velvet Underground and Nico remains as excellent a listen as it was when it was first recorded. If you consider yourself a vaguely respectable fan of rock and roll – go out and buy it now.

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About the Author ()

Nicola Kean: feature writer, philanthropist, womanly woman. Nicola is the smallest member of the Salient team, but eats really large pieces of lasagne. Favourites include 80s music, the scent of fresh pine needles and long walks on the beach.

Comments (8)

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  1. J.I.P says:

    It was Brian Eno who made the ‘started their own band’ comment. It’s an absolute giant of an album. Vicious, sleek, jagged, dirty, and deeply vanilla.

    The Beatles were hardly ‘busy singing about bubblegummy love’ in 1967. I don’t agree with all of what Jim Derogatis has to say on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (read it at http://www.jimdero.com under the ‘Kill Your Idols’ bit), but it’s a nicely considered contrarian’s view of the project. ‘Velvet Underground and Nico’ is, of course, beyond reproach.

  2. Nick Archer says:

    It was Bob Dylan got the ball rolling in 1965 (Before everyone else) though with ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ which was the antithesis of everything everyone else was singing about at the time (and also other biters like ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’, ‘Positively 4th Street’ and ‘Maggie’s Farm’…) And it prompted the Stones to respond with the dark ‘Paint it Black’, and I would hardly call the songs on Help (their first introspective album) for example as being all bubble gummy e.g. ‘Help’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’…

    But having said that, GREAT to see Lou Reed finally mentioned again in salient, looking forward to other Gems to be given the light of day again… like The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Surfa Rosa (bit obvious but you MUST own it! Same goes for Nevermind)), Grace,

  3. Nicola Kean says:

    Nah, I reckon “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” is his better contribution, but we could argue about this all day. And all due respect to The Beatles, but they’re over rated.

  4. Graeme Edgeler says:

    Yeah fair enough Nicola, but ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ was the FIRST really gritty, raw, angry, dark song (and it predates The Velvet Underground And Nico)… Yes we could argue about this all day, but glad to see the underground finally mentioned. I prefer The Times Are A Changin album to Free Wheelin, but ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ is the best song on that album, but you can’t go past ‘Desolation Row’ (have seen and heard him play that in concert also as well ‘Like A Rolling Stone’)…

    Disagree with you on The Beatles, but that can be left for another day…

  5. Tristan. says:

    “the FIRST really gritty, raw, angry, dark song”….

    Dude, Skip James recorded “Devil Got My Woman” back in the ’30s, and it’s not like he was the first man to make dark gritty music. The blues is as old as time. There is rarely such a thing as a “first” in music.

  6. J.I.P says:

    The central point here isn’t whether ‘Freewheelin” is a better album than ‘Highway 61′ or ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, but what skewed music in this sorta direction. Listen to the ‘No Direction Home’ version of ‘Desolation Row’. Jesus. It’s a ‘Venus in Furs’/’All Tomorrow’s Parties’-type Velvet Underground song. There was a lot of darkness bubbling away in this period, and Dylan was surely showing his peers that it was possible to express some pretty complex and emotionally jangled stuff within pop songs. A song like ‘I Want You’ or ‘Positively 4th Street’ would have been unthinkable even a few years beforehand. So, I credit the guy with extending the material folks had to work with in the pop medium. And the best example of how he did this is probably ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. But you can also see the influence of ‘Gates of Eden’, ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ and even stuff like ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’ on that sorta shit.

    But “the FIRST really gritty, raw, angry, dark song”….? Nah, that’s horseshit. Even if you come from the ‘music start in 1956′ school.

    Also, I’d like to put in a plug for ‘There She Goes’ and ‘Run Run Run’ and the songs on this album that don’t get a lot of love.

    And saying ‘all due respect to the Beatles, but they’re over-rated’ is NOT giving due respect.

  7. J.I.P says:

    And another thing. Thisn is a really obvious record to praise. Over at avclub.com they have a thing called ‘Permanent Records’, where the choices aren’t usually the ‘best of all time’ chart toppers. More Letterbox Lambs, less Patti Smith I say. Even though I’ve not heard the Lambs’ album in full and love the Patti Smith one.

    Oh, by the way, the ‘Horses’ thing was misleading in implying that the album ends with ‘My Generation’. It doesn’t. It ends with ‘Elegie’. The Who cover was a bonus track on a CD re-issue. The album works better as a whole, I believe, without the song. HOT TIP: downloading random Patti Smith covers kicks the shit out of her recent covers album.

  8. J.I.P says:

    And another thing. Thisn is a really obvious record to praise. Over at avclub.com they have a thing called ‘Permanent Records’, where the choices aren’t usually the ‘best of all time’ chart toppers. More Letterbox Lambs, less Patti Smith I say. Even though I’ve not heard the Lambs’ album in full and love the Patti Smith one.

    Oh, by the way, the ‘Horses’ thing was misleading in implying that the album ends with ‘My Generation’. It doesn’t. It ends with ‘Elegie’. The Who cover was a bonus track on a CD re-issue. The album works better as a whole, I believe, without the song. HOT TIP: downloading random Patti Smith covers kicks the shit out of her recent covers album. Fo’ sho’.

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