I’ve always thought that if I was ever stranded on a desert island with only one album to keep me company, it would have to be ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico‘. The reason quite simply is that it’s my favourite album of all time and the VU my favourite band. I also happen to like Andy Warhol‘s banana cover.
More seriously, I believe that with this album, Lou Reed and his fellow band members paved the way to a completely different sound; an innovative, provocative, dark, cold, painful type of rock which went on to resonate in the sound of great bands such as Joy Division, The Strokes or Sonic Youth amongst many others.
What makes the ‘Velvet Underground & Nico‘ such an outstanding album in my opinion is that it talks about the most extreme, controversial and tabooed aspects of society in the most poetic and delicate way. Of course he was not the only one to talk about drug abuse at the time, but in amongst all the ‘Cocaine‘, ‘Sister Morphine‘, ‘Brown Sugar‘, ‘Purple Haze‘ and so on, Lou Reed‘s ‘Heroin‘ and ‘I’m Waiting for the Man‘ always appear to me as the most breathtaking portrayals of a person’s struggle with addiction.
However, not everything on ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico‘ is about drug abuse, sexual deviancy and prostitution. A few songs such as ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties‘ and ‘Femme Fatale‘, which was written about Edie Sedwick, depicted the people and atmosphere at Warhol‘s Factory. There are also very soft, tender songs such as one of my personal favourite ‘I’ll be Your Mirror‘ which was written for Nico, as well as the famous ‘Sunday Morning‘ which I still love waking up to.
It’s now quite well-known that the album was, ironically, a commercial failure when it came out in 1967, but consequently became one of the most acclaimed, respected and valued albums of rock history. The impact and influence it has had and still has on music is best explained by Brian Eno and his (alleged) famous quote “the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary of this groundbreaking album, Universal has released a special six discs edition, which includes Factory rehearsals ( Andy Warhol‘s Factory that is), live recordings, alternate versions, but also stereo and mono versions remastered from the original tapes and many other surprises.
Personally i’m torn between excitement and fear. I’m worried that by releasing so many special editions of this album (Peel Slowly and See box set in 1995, deluxe edition in 2002), we are slowly destroying a raw, genuine masterpiece and turning it into some kind of commercial monster.
On the other hand I’m really looking forward to discovering new material, new versions of these timeless songs. Most importantly I truly hope that this will make me forget that almost exactly a year ago Lou Reed and Metallica gave birth to something to a complete musical disaster called ‘Lulu‘.
Post by Olivia