Tuesday, June 12, 2007

No 13: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Band: The Velvet Underground
Album: The Velvet Underground and Nico
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: All that is "alternative" rests in the Velvets. To quote Jim DeRogatis (who was quoting Brian Eno), "Although the group didn't sell a lot of records in its lifetime, everyone who bought one went out and started a band of their own." Certainly the combining of Andy Warhol's vision of what a band should be and the musical excellence of Lou Reed made for some amazing records. While other records had feedback and cacophony as part of the sound, the Velvets embraced this and exploited it in "Femme Fatale" and "Heroin."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm not sure they did. The record is important to all things rock and roll, but it's not in the class of the Beatles or Dylan. It probably should be in the top 10, but 13 isn't bad.
Best song: They're all pretty great. I, personally, like "There She Goes Again" and "Venus in Furs."
Worst song: I don't know that there is a worse song. Maybe "All Tomorrow's Parties?"
Is it awesome?: Absolutely, without question.

What can you say about "The Velvet Underground and Nico" that hasn't been in a movie ("I Shot Andy Warhol") or that Lou Reed hasn't said a million times? The Velvets were so far out there, so avant garde, that they basically influenced everyone who came after them. While the Beatles were trying to insinuate drug references, the Velvets did a song called "Heroin" that climaxed in a screeching viola/guitar combo. While the Stones wanted to "Spend the Night Together," the Velvets were doing a song based on a book about bondage by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.

Yeah, it pushed some boundaries. Again, anyone who is anyone from the avant garde and college radio scene of the '80s cites them as an influence. They were always the no. 2 band on my college radio station's yearly top 88 countdown.

They're college radio ("I'm Waiting For The Man"), they're glam ("Venus in Furs"), they're hard rock (listen to "The Downward Spiral" and tell me you don't hear the influence of the Velvets). They embraced the "scene" with Warhol and Lou Reed embraced punk with Iggy Pop.

Important? Absolutely. Great? Even moreso.

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