or do something more brief if you prefer.
the velvets seem to be quietly controversial here so let's have it out.
a defining, paradigm-shifting, remember-the-first-time-you-heard band for me. and yet i play them so rarely. i think it's because their albums are so inconsistent.
_vu&nico_: probably the best all-round listen for me. biggest weakness: the clunky recording. still, an effective dry look at urban decay. notable for: the viola drones and screeches, the out-of-time solos, the contrast between lou reed's and nico's voices, the sober ballads. "heroin" is a classic just because it is so very good.
_wl/wh_: great sound with the thick distortion and severe motor rhythm. but john cale's prissy voice grates. and "sister ray" doesn't sound as impressive as it used to. i'd probably take _psychocandy_ or frankly _metal machine music_. high points: title track, "i heard her call my name."
_velvet underground_: greater depth and compassion in the lyrics. solos that are actually eloquent. "candy says" and "pale blue eyes" are beautiful. "murder mystery" is trippy. the moe tucker track is charming. the appeal of "some kinda love" eludes me, though. and "beginning to see the light" and "what goes on" just aren't why i got into the velvets.
_loaded_: soft-rock shit. well, "rock n roll" is ok but i'd take the versions on _live 69_ or _another view_.
_vu_/_another view_: as good as the last 2 albums in some ways. "hey mr rain" is one of my favourite vu songs. "stephanie says" is one of their greatest ballads.
the rest: early live tapes show some really interesting feedback-drone jams. later tapes include some nice folky noodling, which gets captured on that live album. "loop" is a really nice track of pulsing feedback.
ultimately, not as extreme, noisy, punk, or dark as they get made out to be but truly great at times. musicianship, or at least a more serious effort at experimenting with the ideas they tried with, might have actually helped.
classic or dud? classic for the best material.
search: "hey mr rain"
destroy: "new age"
― sundar subramanian, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
I will say that having seen Doug Yule last year at Terrastock IV, he
actually put on a pretty good show and did a fine version of "What
Goes On." And he duetted with Mo Tucker on "I'll Stick With You," so
― Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
vu + nico: heroin.
the VU: Pot.
it's true, there albums are inconsistent, yet as a whole, absoloutely
wonderful. probably blown away most by nico, because it was the first
I heard, and I suddenly realised the influence they had on
*absoloutely everything* I listened to. wl/wh took a bit of getting
into, still don't like lady godiva very much, 3rd LP is the easiest
listen and probably the most consistent. loaded is well, bitty, but
wonderful in places. oh, and those 10 minute very, very fast versions
of what goes on aren't bad either :)
― Bill, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
I'd say I'm a big fan, although I listen to them a lot less than I
listen to other groups--I'm actually surprised at how seldom I listen
to them, considering how much I like them. There's so much reverence
for them, sometimes it feels like I'm in a museum when one of their
records is on--not at all because the music is dated or boring, but
because of their complete and total deification. I wish I could go
back and listen to them without all the baggage.
― Clarke B., Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Keiko, Tuesday, 15 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
White Light is, as I said, a blast of brilliant noise. I Heard Her Call My Name is the best guitar solo, Title track is the
best singalong. Sister Ray is the best NOIZE. The Gift is a low, as they are. Lady Godiva's Operation is the best failed experiment.
S/T is the most cohesive as an album, with sweet songs like Candy Says. What Goes On contains the 2nd best guitar solo (the live version on the box is even better). Pale Blue Eyes is the best regret track. Some Kinda Love is the best pervo track. After Hours is the best lo-fi track. Murder Mystery is the worst failed experiment.
Loaded is the best of the bunch -- like the banana album, but everything is better. Lou's songcraft and Morrison's guitar hold the album up great. Every song is the exemplar of something. Search the whole album.
Conclusion? Classic. And get the box set. The bonus tracks, particularly on Disc 5, are invaluble. The first disc of early demos, on the other hand, is of historical value only.
― Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
So continuing in reverse order, the S/T third album is extremely
cool, always had a soft spot for "That's the Story of My Life" in
particular alon withthe indispuable greats ("Candy Says", "What Goes
on", "Pale Blue Eyes" ..)I always skip "Murder Mystery".
"WL/WH", Hmmm - I never want to hear "Sister Ray" or "I heard her
call my name" again really, the rest is OK. "VU and Nico" - as others
have said, it's over-rated, but I love the Nico songs.
I know quite a lot of long-time VU fans, and most of them would
diagree completely with my comments, putting the banana album first.
― Dr. C, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
i'm a White Light/White Heat man myself. Not a weak track in sight,
some really weird singing on 'Lady Godiva', storming title track
and 'Sister Ray' is well 'Sister Ray'. Crap production though. After
Cale went, so did my interest...although I'll gladly believe Loaded
is amazing. I just don't buy any classic rock anymore. Priorities,
priorities, gotta get the new Herbert album ;)
― Omar, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
This may have a little to do with where I grew up (welsh-english marches) and who I wanted to, er, be with: tall dark-eyed boys
from the hills...
In his book he says something that get me going just the same way, however many million years later: "When the Romans came,
we were waiting..." Something like that: anyway, heart-flip time for mark s
― mark s, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Patrick, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
(at least one poster will know what I'm on about here)
― Robin Carmody, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
Yes the same thought flashed through my mind.
― David, Wednesday, 16 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
― sundar subramanian, Saturday, 19 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
But I don't put their records on often. Or at all really.
So, yeah, mixing Lou's rock and roll and John's avant stuff looked
like a good idea on paper but I've never had overmuch respect for Lou
Reed as a rocker (tons for Cale as a noisist) so that's probably why
I think virtually everyone who came after them got things more right
on that front. They actually hold a similar position vis-a-vis the
rock I enjoy as Warhol does vis-a-vis the art I enjoy: impossible
without them/him, but leaves me cold.
Records? The first one is let down by tiresome drug-obsessions and
Nico's vocals, which just seem to me like a parody of
continental 'iciness' - almost offensively so, actually. "Sunday
Morning" is beautiful and the experimental/rock thing on "Black
Angel's Death Song" comes together really well, though.
WL/WH - 'The Gift' I can't see why anyone would play more than
once. 'Sister Ray' I think is awesome in theory and never quite sends
me where it should in practise. Everyone's been lauding "I Heard Her
Call My Name" and they're right to, it's great. The rest I forget.
The third album I've only heard right through once and it didn't grab
Loaded is the only one I've bought on CD and the only one I play - I
don't like huge chunks of it but the first three tracks are good.
Other stuff? Don't know it. The VU Reunion gig I went to was the
worst concert I've ever seen in my life.
― Tom, Saturday, 19 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
― Sterling Clover, Saturday, 19 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Monday, 21 May 2001 00:00 (12 years ago) Permalink
But when I do put it on, it still moves me just as much. And that's
as good of an endorsement that I could possibly give. =)
― md, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
Also: I don't recall hearing ANY of the legendary hour-plus
versions of Sister Ray from beginning to end. There's the
"Twisted Stars" bootleg I have, which has the four vers. of Sister
Ray, and the Sweet Sister Ray bootleg (which only has partials).
All the versions I've heard start with the slow jam, but fade out
before the Big Guns hit. It's a loss, really...
― JM, Thursday, 16 August 2001 00:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
search: everything. destroy: nothing. even the
rough, ugly demo sessions. there was beauty there.
― geeta, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
I hate it when people revive threads featuring my posts from a long
― sundar subramanian, Sunday, 17 February 2002 01:00 (11 years ago) Permalink
― omg, Sunday, 11 January 2004 23:15 (9 years ago) Permalink
― dingy, Sunday, 11 January 2004 23:44 (9 years ago) Permalink
― omg, Sunday, 11 January 2004 23:47 (9 years ago) Permalink
― dingy, Sunday, 11 January 2004 23:51 (9 years ago) Permalink
― StanM (StanM), Monday, 19 December 2005 02:41 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Christopher Costello (CGC), Monday, 19 December 2005 02:56 (7 years ago) Permalink
― StanM (StanM), Monday, 19 December 2005 03:10 (7 years ago) Permalink
it's a shame more people didn't hear the quine tapes too, those massive slowburn takes of "sister ray" are fantastic. I wish they'd do an official version of that live 1966 boot because I've never heard it, that edit of "melody laughter" aside.
― haitch (haitch), Monday, 19 December 2005 03:24 (7 years ago) Permalink
― haitch (haitch), Monday, 19 December 2005 03:27 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Jay Vee (Manon_70), Monday, 19 December 2005 03:55 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Dadaismus (Dada), Tuesday, 20 December 2005 10:33 (7 years ago) Permalink
― Kate Classic (kate), Tuesday, 20 December 2005 12:14 (7 years ago) Permalink
just thought I'd post the assessments I wrote 10+ years back of the lps.
These are firstly the peelable-banana covered 'Velvet Underground and Nico which is at first hearing a very strange heavy folk-rock LP. This LP is often held responsible, along with the music made by the first line-ups of the Byrds and Love for the jangly guitar sound of the mid 80s indie bands. Only to see this though misses a lot. Cale’s Avant-garde roots show through in various places here including the repetitive piano pounding on the most famous track’ Waiting for the Man. Also in the weird tuning and eastern feel on most of the other tracks.The album basically represents the stage show that the Velvets were performing throughout the summer of 1966 without the Warhol input of lights and dancers. Verve refused to put it out for a year putting all their energy into the release of the first Mothers of Invention LP 'Freak out’The bulk of this album was recorded in one day at a studio called Scepter, where a lot of early r&r had been recorded a decade earlier. When the Velvets arrived the place was in the process of collapse. They had to look around for a space with floorboards large enough to set up the drumkit and recorded everything in an 8-hour session. 3 tracks – Heroin, Waiting for the Man and Venus in Furs were re-recorded with Tom Wilson during some time they had off in L.A. at T.T.G. studios L.A.The tracks are as follows: -Sunday Morning- a deceptively fragile/beautiful song. Actually about the paranoia of going home first thing Sunday morning after being up all night. Reed’s Voice is surprisingly high and sounds almost femaleI’m Waiting For The Man - The most famous track, now conventional rock form; it must have sounded pretty revolutionary at the time. Cale’s piano pounding is dominant throughout. It’s about going to Harlem to score drugs and being mistaken for a trick by a pimp. ‘Up to Lexington /125’- a street corner in Harlem.Femme Fatale - a song written for singer Nico, pretty sadistic, again deceptively tuneful, apart from the harmony singing which is decidedly flat.Venus in Furs -Sacher-Masoch set to music. Sterling Morrison’s favourite of their tracks- he felt it was the closest they came to sounding unique ‘if somebody were to ask me what we did that nobody else did I could bring out Venus and ask them who else had ever sounded like that’. It lost least in studio translation. It stars with a violin drone then Lou Reed comes in doing a John Cale vocal impersonation.Run, Run, Run -. A very evil sounding Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry-esque track possibly the closest the Velvets ever come to straight r&r but even here the tuning is very strange. Possibly a precursor to Reed’s later classic ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ it recounts the stories of various downtown characters amid the evil of drugs. Cale is on bass and the guitar jangle is so hard it sounds like a bombing mission.All Tomorrow’s Parties-Possibly about Edie Sedgwick with whom Cale had a brief affair, definitely about one of the chameleon-like poor-little-rich-girls hanging around the Factory. It was cut down to2mins 49 for the first single from the 5.58 it is here. It was also Warhol’s favourite Velvets song.It’s sung by Nico. Reed is playing ‘ostrich’ guitar-all the strings are tuned to the same note, an effect he later repeated on ‘Loaded’’s ‘Rock and Roll’. Cale’s repetitive piano pounding is taken from his own ‘piano exercise’ where he maintained the same chord intervals regardless of chord changes.Heroin – originally side2 track1, this is a lot of people’s introduction to the band. A non-judgmental take on a heroin user, if not a downright mythologiser. Certainly this is the point that confuses the cult-of-personality’ there must be a load of weak-minded people out there who blame this song for their addiction.The introduction is very sparse guitar which goes into the viola that remains a constant throughout theWhole song, then Lou Reed enters with the declaration ‘I don’t know just where I’m going ‘.In the liner notes to the Peel slowly and See box set Reed says that the way it was originally written means that the song speeds up all the way through even if played acoustically. There are more words as the song progresses so it naturally speeds up. This is probably the most famous utilisation of Tony Conrad’s method of note sustain. This is an incredibly sparse sounding track and the rise and fall of the viola is the main constant. It sounds oddly reassuring at times. The noise created by the combination of the viola and guitars has to be heard to be believed. Moe Tucker’s drums are another pulse. They lack the crisp hit of a normal drum sound and just thud; does she undo the traps on her snaredum?There She Goes Again- this starts with an instrumental quote from Don Covay’s ‘Hitch-hike’ it remains very soul influenced throughout and has a very melodic guitar solo in the middle. Are the band’s harmonies altogether serious? The way they cop 50s doowop for the ‘Oooo-Eeee-Aaaaa’Central part and the 'Fly –fly-fly' part at the end certainly raises the question. Reed starts improvising toward the end. You gotta ball and shout, you gotta work it on out’ etc.I’ll Be Your Mirror - Possibly their most beautiful song, (the other main contender is the later Ocean) about trying to help somebody rebuild their self-confidence? Starts very delicatelyNico comes in gentle & clear and very deep voiced. Is this the gotterdamerung that is talked of by the band in Uptight the biography? Her Germanic accent comes through loud and clear. The verse is accompanied by guitar picking, which is punctuated by blunt rhythm playing during the instrumental chorus. The harmonies here are for once in tune and verging on the angelic.Black Angel’s Death Song –a song written for the cadence of the words above all. It starts with a harshly sawn viola then goes into Lou Reed’s word flurry the drums are inaudible throughout are they there? The rhythm is carried by the back and forth 2-beat sawing of the viola. A friend of the band who deputised for one gig was surprised to find it had chords to which Reed replied ‘Sure its got chords it’s a song.’European Son (To Delmore Schwartz)- lyric written to Schwartz’s maxim about not overwording songs. It consists of two short stanzas then 6 minutes of near noise. It also thematically fits the immigrant poet. Musically this is the furthest out they get on the first album. At the time it must have sounded extremely unstructured it has now been surpassed by far in noise stakes. The instrumental part is announced by John Cale scraping a metal chair across the floor then dropping a pile of metal plates in a move he copped from the Fluxus circle he had been involved in through LaMonte Young
― Stevolende, Friday, 18 March 2011 20:27 (2 years ago) Permalink
this is a really good thread concept and there should be more "assess" threads imo
― five gone cats from Boston (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Friday, 18 March 2011 20:31 (2 years ago) Permalink
and Wl/WH the lp I semi ironically think of as 'the funk lp' cos its all r'n'b jams plus Sister Ray always reminds me of Go-go. All extended one chord vamps 'n'all
"The other Cale period Velvets LP is 'White Light /White Heat. It came out in a black on black sleeve with a picture of the skull and crossbones tattoo on the top of Billy name’s arm. It was produced by Tom Wilson, a young black hipster who had already produced Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. The band had just been endorsed by the British music firm Voxx so were getting instruments free. There are several photos in existence of members of the band posing with Voxx’s trademark lute-shape guitars, which the Rolling stones’ Brian Jones was also known to use.The record has very little separation due to the proximity of players to each other so there is a lot of noise/feedback throughout this really adds to the sound and is probably cited by the whole lo-fi scene as a progenitor. So over the course of two LPs the Velvets were indirectly responsible for 2 much derided music scenes, both of which did issue forth rare gems.Here for the most part Cale plays bass, and it is only on hearing the box set re-mastering of this that I realised just how downright funky this LP is.The tracks are as follows: -White Light /White Heat – A song about the apex of an amphetamine rush the time when your toes curl back as do your eyes. That feeling that you have heat rays coming from your eyeballs. It features more of Cale’s repetitive piano pounding this time incorporating the styles of Jerry lee Lewis and Little Richard this is strange because there’s also a bass pounding away here. One of the rare occurrences that the later Doug Yule featuring band does a version of the song that’s almost as good as the original. The other version is on 1969 Live (volume 2, if you get the CD)The Gift - John Cale recites Lou Reed’s college short story of unrequited love and sudden accidental death -done in one take-over a funk instrumental ‘Booker T’ presumably named after the MGsmain man Booker T Jones. Strange then that there’s no keyboard especially since it’s featured elsewhere. Perhaps feedback swathes take its place.It was originally supposed to have strict stereo separation with the vocals on one side and the instrumental on the other. So the listener could decide whether they wanted to hear about the tragic fate of Waldo Jeffers or the music or both. This was badly bungled in 1967 and was only put right for the Peel Slowly and see box set.Lady Godiva’s Operation – The second narrative in a row this time more in song form with Reed and Cale alternating lines. The story of a sex change operation that goes badly wrong. Reed particularly liked Cale’s impersonation of a life support system. Again horror strikes prior to the end of the story.Here She Comes Now – The one moment of near beauty on an overloaded album. A song of anticipation of a girl the narrator is deeply enamoured with but maybe doesn’t notice him.Does Cale play viola on this track or is it confusion with the demo? The box set has him listed as playing viola somewhere on this album but I can’t hear it and this seems to be the one place it would fit.I Heard Her Call My Name – song about the narrator’s confusion about a dead loved one ‘I know she’s dead and gone but I heard her call my name’ etc. It has one of the wildest guitar solos ever which has been described in the liner notes as being ‘The closest any rock guitarist had yet dared to get to the exuberant free jazz squall of saxophonist Ornette Coleman and pianist Cecil Taylor’s shotgun melodicism’In Uptight Reed says something about Jimi Hendrix having this great sense of timing which is copied here in the way the song stops then suddenly explodes into the solo.Moe Tucker’s metronomic drumming here is another highlight.Sister Ray – The most famous track on this album. 17minutes and27 seconds of the band fighting for dominance over a simple chord change. Everybody was trying to be louder than everybody else. Morrison was surprised when Cale –playing surprisingly melodically for such a steamroller song- pulled out all the stops on his organ so got louder than everybody else, whose guitar amps were all already on 10. This leads to Moe Tucker’s drums becoming all-but inaudible.The studio engineer walked out half way through this number saying ‘Call me when it’s over.’The band had previously decide that they only had it in them to do one take of this song so if anybody wanted to play anything do it now. -No excuses or druthersOne other thing to notice is the lack of a bass – obviously Cale couldn’t play two instruments at the same time and there were no overdubs.The lyrics to the song were the story of a bunch of lowlifes – a catalogue of drug hustles and blowjob jollities to quote the Peel Slowly linernotes ‘Too busy sucking on my ding-dong -she sucks good like Sister Ray says’Written by Reed on the way to a gig although the words would continually change live where the song was preceded by a track called ‘Sweet Sister Ray’ that could itself last up to 40 minutes.The music came out of a chord change that came up during an Exploding Plastic Inevitable engagement at Poor Richard’s in Chicago during July1966. Reed was at the time hospitalised with hepatitis presumably from needle use and the band had re-shuffled accordingly- Cale was on vocals Tucker had switched over to bass and original drummer Angus MacLise was back on hand drums.
― Stevolende, Friday, 18 March 2011 20:58 (2 years ago) Permalink
would love to see some documentation of that Poor Richard's lineup, never heard that before.
― sleeve, Friday, 18 March 2011 22:22 (2 years ago) Permalink
there are some (pretty terrible) sound quality recordings. interesting, though -- kind of a totally different sound. i think they play heroin like they're playing waiting for the man.
― tylerw, Friday, 18 March 2011 22:24 (2 years ago) Permalink
sorry that should be "there are some (pretty terrible sound quality)"
― five gone cats from Boston (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), vrijdag 18 maart 2011 21:31 (2 hours ago) Bookmark
OTM. Love reading this thread, and Stevolende´s updates especially.
― La descente infernale (Le Bateau Ivre), Friday, 18 March 2011 22:51 (2 years ago) Permalink
they are gods
― Goth Cruise to Lynch Land (Latham Green), Tuesday, 23 August 2011 13:34 (1 year ago) Permalink
Reading White Light/White Heat: VU Day-By-Day and I assumed I'd be flipping through it and am riveted by every word. I think I finally "get" the trainspotting obsessiveness of the diehard fans now, although I fear I may succumb to it soon, which I don't need right now!
― Iago Galdston, Monday, 3 September 2012 00:15 (8 months ago) Permalink
(renames thread 'Beginning to see the light')
― Mark G, Monday, 3 September 2012 06:05 (8 months ago) Permalink
i should have put my post in the trainspotting VU thread....(anyone ysi me the professor tape, please??)
― Iago Galdston, Monday, 3 September 2012 16:23 (8 months ago) Permalink
I think the "best of" posted By tyler at Doom & Gloom is still working:
― EZ Snappin, Monday, 3 September 2012 17:21 (8 months ago) Permalink
Heard the first album in a bar almost all the way through the other day. It's amazing how poorly some of the songs are mixed. Like, "Run Run Run" has the rhythm track WAY low and the lead vocals and guitar much higher. Gives it a real cheap sound!
― Emperor Cos Dashit (Adam Bruneau), Monday, 3 September 2012 18:18 (8 months ago) Permalink
iago, here's one of the full professors: http://doomandgloomfromthetomb.tumblr.com/post/30395247670/endless-revisions-in-honor-of-sterling-morrisons
― tylerw, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 02:16 (8 months ago) Permalink
You can hear the bass better on the mono version of "Run Run Run," but the drums are even more buried. Of course, eight of the songs were recorded very early (April of '66) in what was said to have been a cheap studio. Thought for a long time that the sound on it is actually cruder than a lot of garage band records on small labels from the time.
― timellison, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 03:01 (8 months ago) Permalink
Thanks so much, tylerw!
― Iago Galdston, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 03:45 (8 months ago) Permalink
And thanks to you too, EZ
OK, I guess I was wrong. Six of the songs are from those sessions. Here is the bit from the Unterberger book about it:
― timellison, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 03:46 (8 months ago) Permalink
The "Scepter" mixes seem a lot better in some instances, "Run run run" being one of them.
― Mark G, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 08:33 (8 months ago) Permalink
There was a piece somewhere a while back about the effects of the mixing process between recording things at Scepter and releasing the & Nico lp.not sure where, just remember reading it.
Scepter had apparently been a recording studio that had recorded a lot of the 1st wave of r'n'r 10 years before the Velvets but had fallen into disrepair since. There were supposed to be major holes in the floor and the drumset set up on one of the few complete spaces large enough to hold it. Probably some exxageration going on but don't sound too prime.
― Stevolende, Tuesday, 4 September 2012 12:50 (8 months ago) Permalink
Can I just take a moment to ponder at the strangeness of seeing the three doctors operating in theatre in "Holby City" last night singing "I'm sticking with you" to the chief surgeon to calm her down as it was her "favourite song".
Carry on as normal, I just wanted to mention it.
― Rob M Revisited, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 06:03 (8 months ago) Permalink
Three doctors in the same room?
― Mark G, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 09:16 (8 months ago) Permalink
this is new to me
― the pinefox, Tuesday, 2 April 2013 16:44 (1 month ago) Permalink
from the first disc of the peel slowly and see box. pretty cool thing overall!
― tylerw, Tuesday, 2 April 2013 18:02 (1 month ago) Permalink