The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by American rock band the Velvet Underground and German singer Nico, released in March 1967 by Verve Records. It was recorded in 1966 while the band were featured on Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour. The album features experimental performance sensibilities and controversial lyrical topics, including drug abuse, prostitution, sadomasochism and sexual deviancy. It sold poorly and was mostly ignored by contemporary critics, but later became regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music.
Many subgenres of rock music and forms of alternative music were informed by the album, including art rock, punk, garage, shoegazing, goth, and indie. In 1982, musician Brian Eno stated that while the album initially sold approximately only 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” In 2003, it ranked 13th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and in 2006, it was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
All songs written by Lou Reed, except where noted.
|1.||“Sunday Morning” (Reed, John Cale)||2:53|
|2.||“I’m Waiting for the Man”||4:37|
|4.||“Venus in Furs”||5:07|
|5.||“Run Run Run”||4:18|
|6.||“All Tomorrow’s Parties”||5:55|
|2.||“There She Goes Again”||2:30|
|3.||“I’ll Be Your Mirror”||2:01|
|4.||“The Black Angel’s Death Song” (Reed, Cale)||3:10|
|5.||“European Son” (Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker)||7:40|
AllMusic Review: One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album’s sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what’s most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop (“Sunday Morning”), tough garage rock (“Waiting for the Man”), stripped-down R&B (“There She Goes Again”), and understated love songs (“I’ll Be Your Mirror”) when they weren’t busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed’s lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone “teen music”) always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of “European Son,” the troubling beauty of “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and the expressive dynamics of “Heroin” all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico’s contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band’s outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol’s presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. — Mark Deming
Schill Score: 8/10
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