In the year 1967 celebrity producer, Andy Warhol released an album “Velvet Underground and Nico” by a new band called Velvet Underground. The album was a commercial failure, was ignored by critics and was scorned by music lovers. But years later during the 80s, the newly enlightened music folk began to realize how much a great album it was. An album that spoke about the darker side of life, and explored the provocative topics and inspired people to experiment with music. The recognition came late, and by the early 2000s the album was immortalized and in 2003 the Rolling Stones magazines ranked it as the 13the best album ever made.
Velvet Underground and Nico today is considered as one of the finest rock albums ever produced. An album that stood the test of time and established itself as a timeless classic. It’s a thing that mesmerizes music lovers how an album that drew inspiration from the Beat generation, that wrote about the pain of life with all rawness floundered so hard in its initial days to rise again years later. Today most of the members of the band are dead, but the legacy of Velvet Underground keeps on going strong.
The album was too mature for its time speaking openly about love, sex, drug abuse and prostitution, and the credits go to the founding members of the band Lou Reed and John Cale who were inspired by people like Allen Ginsberg and Raymond Chandler. The album started with “Sunday Morning” a beautiful, simple yet elegant song about paranoia crafted masterfully and was released as a single with an above average production quality.
The 60s the era of the cultural revolution, with beat poetry, counterculture and the rise of the hippies was rampant with heroin addiction amongst the youth and Velvet Underground used this as their main theme in the next song “I’m Waiting for the Man”. The song was about a man waiting to purchase heroin and it spoke boldly about drug abuse and nihilism with traditional guitars, drums, and bass all aligned together with a soft rock-riff giving the vibes of rock and roll and dealing with a more provocative topic for its time. “Femme Fatale” the next song featured Nico the German singer/model as the lead and moved slowly blending Reed’s jazz influences to give a very fine ambiance to the song.
Written about the actress/model Edgie Sedgwick this song resonated with the one prominent feature of this album, the artful difference among the songs that made the album more vibrant. Not only was this album a bold statement but also it dared to experiment both lyrically and musically. Every song was unique with a new rhythm and pace. Without an intro “Venus in Fur” jumped straight into the action, inspired by the book of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch the song explored sexuality like never before including themes of sadomasochism, bondage, and submission. All the feelings and rawness were amplified with the underlying sound of the violin on to which the guitars were added to give the song a very unique feel altogether. Velvet Underground and Nico was producer Andy Warhol’s brainchild and the influence of Warhol can be found abundantly in this album, and one such song is “All Tomorow’s Parties”. An accurate detailed description of the people who were at Warhol’s studio also known as “the Factory”.
The next track Heroin was the best in the album. The lyrics were poignant, the construction perfect and original and the song dwelled deeper into the topic of drug abuse. The song was composed by Reed in 1964 and the song remains as one of the greatest and the most celebrated compositions of Velvet Underground and achieved a legendary status in the music world. While it didn’t endorse heroin use it didn’t condemn it either. With a slight pop-touch came “There She Goes Again” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” easy listening songs resonating with the popular mood. I’ll Be Your Mirror was Nico’s last song in the album, short and catchy and with an easy pop tune that anyone could sing along to. Loud bursts of audio and screeching violins accompanied “The Black Angel’s Death Song” an eerily psychedelic song. “European Son” the longest and the final track was filled with rock guitar, bass and some unorthodox sound effects acknowledging the sonic experimentations that were budding in the late 60s.
Even though the album failed commercially, today it is considered as one of the most prophetic albums ever made, that inspired thousands of musicians. It was music that touched the soul and spoke to the heart, this album showed people the darker side of life, and brought in experimental tones and avant-garde style of rock. And it is for this reason even after years of its initial release it is still considered as one of the best albums ever produced.