Album Flashback #10// The Velvet Underground and Nico
Many words have been written about the development of music and many more names dropped in an effort to identify just who sowed the seeds of that ever developing notion of cool. Many will cite The Beatles, Elvis or one of a stream of others but for us The Velvet Underground are the best...
Their debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico is famously timeless and even now, it's hard to notice its age. There is a certain rough edge to the recordings that charms the ear and the distinctly kinky undertone of much of the album is compelling rather than the modern day's policy of full exposure whenever possible.
There's S and M on the supremely sinister Venus In Furs, whose opening line 'shiny shiny shiny boots of leather/whiplash girl child in the dark' is a good summation of the dark imagery the droning yet exotic guitar exudes with a cool ease. I'm Waiting for the Man features Reed 'waiting for his man' at Lexington 125 in a song that still rings true today if you've ever stopped to observe the late night dealings of street folk in certain areas.
It's deservedly famous repeated riff is brutal enough to give the song it's edge and if Lou Reed's ostrich guitar is effective here it's at its album peak on a comparatively short version of Heroin, later live versions often doubling its seven minutes easily. The thing that makes this album so addictive though is Nico's part as chanteuse, even if she was apparently forced on the band by producer Andy Warhol. Her ice cold tones make All Tomorrow's Parties an essential listen that gives the listener reason to pause and actually listen to those mysteriously intoned lyrics and give Femme Fatale an edge that Lou Reed’s tones perhaps could not have.
Above all though think of the cultural attachment these songs have made. It is said that few people actually bought the album on release but all those who did went out and formed a band from its influence. Not just that, but how many boutiques with the name Venus In Furs have appeared? How about the festival named after All Tomorrows Parties? Even Bowie covered I'm Waiting For The Man among the many who have recorded versions of the songs from this album. It will be 50 years since the album’s release in 2017 and it's an event that deserves to marked with a least a listen to this timeless album that really does thrill with every listen!
Words by Sebastian Gahan. Banana by Andy Warhol!