Oh, hey! It was the 50th anniversary of the Velvet Underground & Nico this year and we almost forgot about it. This fantastic album from the mind of Lou Reed and co. has been considered a classic for a long time, despite not being a commercial success when released back in March 1967.
Famously, Andy Warhol’s giant banana (*ahem*) graced the front cover and, by Jove, it merely adds to the themes of drug abuse, deviancy, and debauchery which are littered throughout the album’s lyrics. It’s a fine old album and one which would like mighty adorning any record collection.
The Velvet Underground & Nico
Righto, the album begins with the rather marvellous (although deceptively twee, due to the upbeat tinkles) Sunday Morning, which is arguably the understated masterpiece from the album and features a gorgeous little solo towards the end. Lou Reed (who sadly died back in 2013) dominates the song, with the album free from its secret weapon: Nico.
Nico (1938-1988) was a German singer with a distinctive, brooding, and doom-laden voice. Upbeat pop ditties weren’t really her thing, but along with the likes of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane she became one of the most respected singers of the 1960s (she was also an Andy Warhol – or Bernie Ecclestone, as those two seem to be the same person – superstar).
Alongside the deceptively cheery opener, there are tracks such as the famous Venus in Furs. There’s a doom-laden quality about these songs, thumped along by Nico’s involvement, with tracks such as All Tomorrow’s Parties tempered by the upbeat Run Run Run. Altogether, though, they don’t really reflect the psychedelia movement of the day – even when tracks appear upbeat and pop chart friendly, there’s always some drug fueled antic waiting around the corner.
There’s a contemplative, sporadically energetic song called Heroin which details the use of the drug pretty explicitly. Death also never appears to be far away, with Femme Fatale crooned out by Nico – the whole album borders on sickly sweet tempered by grotesque, psychotic, or narcotics urging antics and, by cripes, along with that banana it makes for one of the most memorable albums of the ’60s.
Anyway, you can listen to the whole thing above if you have a spare 50 minutes and want to add a new band to your life. On the CD reissues from around a decade ago, the banana is peelable and reveals what you can only presume is a phallic symbol underneath. Bloody perverts! Anyway, don’t let this put you off as there’s a lot of fine musicianship and edgy lyricism at play here which makes the majority of modern bands like plain old crap.