This was supposed to be commercial dynamite. It was anything but. The critics of the time wouldn’t have it, but this album is now considered a cult classic in the history of rock and roll.
It was recorded in 1967 by The Velvet Underground, which consisted of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and German guest singer Nico sang on the album as well. It sounds so unconventional. Feedback is everywhere, there is electrified violin, there are mistakes all over the record and most puritans nowadays would probably ask you what on earth this is. Despite this, it’s an interesting and valuable recording.
We kick off with Sunday Morning, a brilliant and paranoid song about feeling feelings that are unwelcome. It has a strange array of instrumentation, but boy, Lou Reed sounds awesome with his singing here. It’s a good way to start off this rather unusual record.
The next song is far more explicit. I’m Waiting For My Man is an open and direct reference to drug use. In this song, Lou Reed travels to a rather racially segregated and bad part of town with 26 dollars to buy the stuff he smokes. It’s really catchy and fast paced by the group.
Femme Fatale is about a sex worker, sung by Nico. It’s interesting that they let her sing on this record, as the group was (apparently) fairly horrible in the treatment of Nico. She does very well though and reminds you to be careful with said person.
Venus In Furs is a hypnotic and dark tale sung by Lou Reed. It has the electrified violin that John Cale plays and sounds very avant-garde in this respect. It directly refers to the sexual practice of S & M, which is an unusual practice itself. It all adds to the freaky ambiance of the recording.
Following up we have Run, Run, Run. It’s a good pop piece and characterizes all the good things about The Velvet Underground. Good listening, with a thumping beat.
After that, we have All Tomorrow’s Parties which is delivered very well by Nico. Unfortunately, the song itself is rather boring, but it’s good to hear the variety available regardless.
Heroin is as you’d expect, an ode to the most dangerous drug of all. Its sound also is supposed to resemble the use of the drug too. The lyrics talk about one’s desire to nullify their life in favour of Heroin use, even if it kills them. It sounds so freaky and disturbing in both songwriting and sound because it simply is. One of the darkest songs you will ever hear, complete with banging upright drums and electric violin to boot.
There She Goes Again refers to violence directly, and not at all in a sensitive way. It’s no surprise this album was banned from radio, the exact same thing would occur if the album were released today. This song is pop, but nasty.
The next song I’ll Be Your Mirror is actually a really sweet and loving sort of song sung by Nico. It is suggested through the title and actually sounds quite beautiful in comparison to the other songs. A welcoming change from the rest of the album, which does not really sound beautiful at all.
The nonsensical follow up The Black Angel’s Death Song is possibly an ode to satanic ways, but may not be. It features electric violin and unusual arrangements once again, with Lou Reed doing his speak-singing style again. It’s once again, different.
European Son is an extended and odd jam, in the style of The Velvet Underground. It’s actually quite an interesting and satisfying listen, but sounds messed up all the same. The record comes to a close here.
An ordinary person would intensely dislike this recording. But the world of music is an unusual place. With album artwork by Andy Warhol and so many important and famous musicians, particularly of a punk background being influenced by this recording, it’s become famous in art rock circles.
If you like out there weird, start here.