Friday, 21 November 2014

50 albums to take to my grave 15: The Velvet Underground & Nico

Another one I'm not going to go on about as you're probably more than familiar with it, but here's a few thoughts from my perspective.

I got into the Velvets through R.E.M. who covered a number of their tunes. When I first heard this record, I had real trouble getting into it, but there’s no doubt what a fabulous piece of musical history it is.

I'm sure Andy Warhol saw it as little more than a folly, and who knows how much actual production he did on the record. But his insistence at bringing in Nico despite the protestations of the band, was in hindsight an inspired move. She lends a darkly seductive mood to the album; that thick German accent, the deep almost monotonous drawl complimenting Cale's viola and Reed's own relaxed vocal and guitar styles.

It sold bugger all at the time, but it’s been said that while few people bought it, those that did formed a band on the back of it. It is that influential and continues to be. It is often cited as a forerunner of garage rock and punk, but I hear far more (what would become known as) Krautrock in it than anything else, and that's not just down to Nico's presence. Even without her, the psychedelic, improvisational style of the music was very reminiscent of what was going on in the underground scene in West Germany during the late 60s and early 70s.

And what of the actual songs? One of the most consistently brilliant batches of songs ever produced, in my view. If I had to choose one, it would probably be I’ll Be Your Mirror, but to be honest, ask me tomorrow and I might say Venus In Furs, and next week it'll be Sunday Morning... you get the picture. While the other three Velvet Underground records[1] are superb as well, this one surpasses most of the records ever made by anyone. Nuff said.

[1] 'White Light/White Heat', 'The Velvet Underground' and 'Loaded'. No-one - not even the band - recognises 'Squeeze' as a VU album, and 'VU' and 'Another View' were compilations of unreleased tracks, so therefore don't count either.

1 comment:

  1. I'd heard that The Velvet Underground were influential and I'd heard a cover versions by Japan, Joy Division, Paul Quinn, Bauhaus...etc... but never heard the original until I finally bought this CD after I got my first CD player.

    It was ahead of it's time this one.