The Velvet Underground & Nico: Wikis

  
  

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The Velvet Underground & Nico
Studio album by The Velvet Underground and Nico
Released March 12, 1967 (1967-03-12)
Recorded April 1966, Scepter Studios, New York City, New York, United States; May 1966, T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood, California, United States; November 1966, Mayfair Studios, New York City
Genre Art rock
Experimental rock
Protopunk
Length 48:51
Language English
Label Verve
Producer Andy Warhol; Tom Wilson
The Velvet Underground chronology
The Velvet Underground & Nico
(1967)
White Light/White Heat
(1968)
Nico chronology
The Velvet Underground & Nico
(1967)
Chelsea Girl
(1967)
Singles from The Velvet Underground & Nico
  1. "All Tomorrow's Parties"
    Released: July 1966 (1966-07)
  2. "Sunday Morning"
    Released: December 1966 (1966-12)
Alternate cover
The early LP edition with the banana-skin sticker peeled off.

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by American rock band The Velvet Underground and vocal collaborator Nico. It was originally released in March 1967 by Verve Records. Recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour, The Velvet Underground & Nico would gain notoriety for its experimentalist performance sensibilities, as well as its focus on controversial subject matter expressed in many of their songs.

Though largely ignored upon release, the record has since become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed rock albums in history, appearing at number thirteen on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[1] as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Librarian of Congress.[2]

Contents

Recording

The Velvet Underground & Nico was recorded with the first professional line-up of The Velvet Underground, including Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen "Moe" Tucker; with Nico, who would occasionally sing lead with the band at the instigation of their mentor and manager, Andy Warhol. Nico sang lead on three of the album's tracks—"Femme Fatale", "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "I'll Be Your Mirror"—and back-up on "Sunday Morning". In 1966, as the album was being recorded, this was also the line-up for their live performances as a part of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

The bulk of the songs that would become The Velvet Underground & Nico were recorded in mid-April, 1966, during a four-day stint at Scepter Studios, a decrepit recording studio in New York City. This recording session was financed by Warhol and Columbia Records' sales executive Norman Dolph, who also acted as an engineer with John Licata. Though exact total cost of the project is unknown, estimates vary from $1500 to $3000.[3]

Soon after recording, Dolph sent an acetate disc of the recordings to Columbia in an attempt to interest them in distributing the album, but they declined, as did Atlantic Records and Elektra Records. Eventually, the MGM Records-owned Verve Records accepted the recordings with the help of Verve staff producer Tom Wilson, who had recently moved from a job at Columbia.

With the affirmation of a label, three of the songs, "I'm Waiting for the Man", "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin", were re-recorded in two days at T.T.G. Studios during a stay in Hollywood later in 1966. As the record's release date was bumped back time after time because of production problems, Wilson also took them into a New York studio in November 1966 to add a final song to the track listing: the single "Sunday Morning". The production on that song is far more professional and lush, aimed as it was at radio playtime.

Production

There is some confusion as to who actually produced The Velvet Underground & Nico. Although Andy Warhol was the only formally credited producer, he had very little direct influence or authority over the album beyond paying for the recording sessions. In fact, several other individuals who worked on the album are often mentioned as the album's technical producer.

Norman Dolph and John Licata are sometimes attributed to producing the Scepter Studios sessions, considering they were responsible for recording and engineering them (despite the fact that neither of the two were ever mentioned in the original album's credits).[3] Dolph himself, however, admits John Cale as the album's rightful creative producer, as he handled the majority of the album's musical arrangements.[3] And yet, Cale later recalled that it was Tom Wilson who actually produced nearly all the tracks on The Velvet Underground & Nico. "The band never again had as good a producer as Tom Wilson," Cale told an interviewer. "Andy Warhol didn't do anything."[4] Sterling Morrison described Warhol as the album's producer "in the sense of producing a film. We used some of his money and our money...Andy was the producer but we were the "executive producers" too. We made the record ourselves and then brought it around and MGM said they liked it."[5]

However, others cite Warhol's lack of manipulation on the album itself a legitimate means of production.[3] Lou Reed discussed the matter in an interview:

He just made it possible for us to be ourselves and go right ahead with it because he was Andy Warhol. In a sense, he really did produce it, because he was this umbrella that absorbed all the attacks when we weren't large enough to be attacked... and as a consequence of him being the producer, we'd just walk in and set up and do what we always did and no one would stop it because Andy was the producer. Of course he didn't know anything about record production—but he didn't have to. He just sat there and said "Oooh, that's fantastic," and the engineer would say, "Oh yeah! Right! It is fantastic, isn't it?"[6]

Music

Audio samples of 'The Velvet Underground & Nico'
"I'm Waiting for the Man"
The second track of The Velvet Underground & Nico. The percussive, "barrelhouse"-style piano is heard behind Lou Reed's descriptive lyrics. This sample contains the first verse.
"Venus in Furs"
The fourth track from The Velvet Underground & Nico. The droning electric viola accompanies the "ostrich"-tuned guitar. This sample contains the second verse.
"Heroin"
The seventh track from The Velvet Underground & Nico. As the song nears its final crescendo, the percussion quickens and the electric viola produces feedback.
  • Problems listening to the files? See media help.

Subject matter

The Velvet Underground & Nico was notable for its overt descriptions of topics such as drug abuse, prostitution, sadism and masochism, and sexual deviancy. "I'm Waiting for the Man" describes a man's efforts to obtain heroin while "Venus in Furs" is a nearly literal interpretation of the nineteenth century novel of the same name (which itself prominently features accounts of BDSM). "Run Run Run" also has drug culture as its premise. One of the best-known tracks on the album is "Heroin", a song that details an individual's use of the drug and the experience of feeling its effects.

Lou Reed, who wrote the majority of the album's lyrics, never intended to write about such topics for shock value. Reed, a fan of poets and authors such as Raymond Chandler, Nelson Algren, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Hubert Selby, Jr., saw no reason why the content in their works couldn't translate well to rock and roll music. An English major, having studied for a B.A. at Syracuse University, Reed said in an interview that he thought joining the two (gritty subject matter and music) was "obvious".[7] "That's the kind of stuff you might read. Why wouldn't you listen to it? You have the fun of reading that, and you get the fun of rock on top of it."[7]

Though the album's dark subject matter is today considered revolutionary,[8] several of the album's songs are concerned with other topics. Certain songs were written by Reed as observations of the members of Andy Warhol's "Factory Superstars". "Femme Fatale" in particular was written about Edie Sedgwick at Warhol's request. "I'll Be Your Mirror", inspired by Nico,[9] is a tender and affectionate song; stark in contrast to a song like "Heroin". A common mis-perception is that "All Tomorrow's Parties" was written by Reed at Warhol's request (as stated in Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga's Velvet Underground biography Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story). While the song does seem to be another observation of Factory denizens, Reed had written the song (and even recorded a demo version in 1965) before meeting Warhol.

Instrumentation and performance

Much of the album's sound was conceived by John Cale, who stressed the experimental qualities of the band. Cale, who was influenced greatly by his work with La Monte Young, John Cage and the early Fluxus movement, encouraged the use of alternative ways of producing sound in music. Cale thought his sensibilities meshed well with Lou Reed's, who was already experimenting with alternative tunings. For instance, Reed had "invented" the ostrich guitar tuning for a song he wrote called "The Ostrich" for the short-lived band The Primitives. Ostrich guitar tuning consists of all strings being tuned to the same note. The method was utilized on songs "Venus in Furs" and "All Tomorrow's Parties". Often, the guitars were also tuned down a whole step, which produced a lower, fuller sound that Cale called "sexy".[3]

Cale's viola was used on several of the album's songs, notably "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin". The viola used guitar and mandolin strings, and when played loudly, Cale would often liken its sound to that of an airplane engine.[8] Cale's viola technique usually involved drones, or single notes sustained over long periods of time. He would, however, vary his attack, speed, or even add other notes on top to make the note have a different tone while maintaining the same pitch.

Album cover

Left: The original back cover, with the upside-down image of Eric Emerson's head at the top of the photo and his outstretched arms on the right and left. Right: The back cover as seen on a reissued copy of the album, with Emerson's image airbrushed from the cover.

The album cover for The Velvet Underground & Nico is recognizable for featuring a Warhol print of a banana on the cover. Early copies of the album invited the owner to "Peel slowly and see"; peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-colored banana underneath. A special machine was needed to manufacture these covers (one of the causes of the album's delayed release), but MGM paid for costs figuring that any ties to Warhol would boost sales of the album.[7][3] The reissued vinyl editions of the album do not feature the peel-off sticker; the original copies of the album with the peel-sticker feature are extremely rare collector's items. On the 1996 CD reissue, the banana image is on the front cover while the image of the peeled banana is on the inside of the jewel case, beneath the CD itself. It is also notable that the original release featured only Andy Warhol's signature. The title of the album was included on various reissues.

Back cover lawsuit controversy

When the album was first issued, the main back cover photo (taken at an Exploding Plastic Inevitable performance) featured an image of actor Eric Emerson projected upside-down on the wall behind the band. Emerson threatened to sue over this unauthorized use of his image, unless he was paid.[3] Rather than complying, MGM recalled copies of the album and halted its distribution until Emerson's image could be airbrushed from the photo on subsequent pressings. Copies that had already been printed were sold with a large black sticker covering the actor's image. The image was restored for the 1996 CD reissue.

Track listing

All songs written by Lou Reed unless otherwise noted.

Side one
  1. "Sunday Morning" (Reed, Cale) – 2:54
  2. "I'm Waiting for the Man" – 4:39
  3. "Femme Fatale" – 2:38
  4. "Venus in Furs" – 5:12
  5. "Run Run Run" – 4:22
  6. "All Tomorrow's Parties" – 6:00
Side two
  1. "Heroin" – 7:12
  2. "There She Goes Again" – 2:41
  3. "I'll Be Your Mirror" – 2:14
  4. "The Black Angel's Death Song" (Reed, Cale) – 3:11
  5. "European Son" (Reed, Cale, Morrison, Tucker) – 7:46

Reception and sales

 Professional ratings
Source Rating
Popmatters (positive) [10]
Blender 5/5 stars [11]
Allmusic 5/5 stars [12]
Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars [13]
Robert Christgau (A) [14]
BBC (positive) [15]

Upon its original release, The Velvet Underground & Nico was largely unsuccessful by popular music standards and was a financial failure. The controversial content of the album would lead to its almost instantaneous ban from various record stores. Many radio stations would refuse to play the album and magazines would refuse to carry advertisements for it.[3] Its lack of success can also be attributed to Verve, who failed to promote or distribute the album with anything but modest attention.[3][8]

The album first entered the Billboard album charts on May 13, 1967 at #199 and left the charts on June 10, 1967 at #195. It then re-entered the charts on November 18, 1967 at #182, peaked at #171 on December 16, 1967 and finally left the charts on January 6, 1968 at #193. When Verve recalled the album in June due to Eric Emerson's lawsuit, it disappeared from the charts for only five months.[7]

The critical world also took little notice of the album. One of the few print reviews of the album in 1967 was a mostly positive review in the second issue of Vibrations, a small rock music magazine.[8] The review described the music as "a full-fledged attack on the ears and on the brain" and took note of the dark subject matter to be found in the majority of the song's lyrics.

It wasn't until decades later that the album received almost unanimous praise by numerous rock critics, many of whom made particular note of its influence in modern rock music. In April 2003, Spin put the album at the number one spot of their "Top Fifteen Most Influential Albums of All Time" list [16] Rolling Stone placed it at number 13 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" in November 2003, calling it "the most prophetic rock album ever made."[1][17]

In 1997, Velvet Underground & Nico was named the 22nd greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In his 1995 book, "The Alternative Music Almanac", Alan Cross placed the album in the #1 spot on the list of '10 Classic Alternative Albums'. In 2006, Q magazine readers voted it into 42nd place in the "2006 Q Magazine Readers' 100 Greatest Albums Ever" poll, while The Observer placed it at number 1 in a list of "50 Albums That Changed Music"[18] in the July of that year. Also in 2006, the album was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.[19]

Aftermath

Frustrated by the album's year-long delay and unsuccessful release, Lou Reed's relationship with Andy Warhol grew tense until Reed finally fired Warhol as manager in favor of Steve Sesnick. Nico was also forced out of the group, though she would start a moderately successful career as a solo artist, releasing her debut solo album, Chelsea Girl, in October 1967. Chelsea Girl would feature five songs written by members of The Velvet Underground, including "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams", a song Reed wrote and recorded earlier with the aid of John Cale and Sterling Morrison in 1965.

Tom Wilson remained working with the group through 1967, producing their 1968 album White Light/White Heat and Nico's Chelsea Girl.

Album reissues

Above: The original 1986 CD edition. Below: The 1996 remastered CD reissue.

Compact disc

The first CD edition of the album was released in 1986 and featured slight changes. The title of the album was featured on the cover, unlike the original LP release. In addition, the album contained an alternate mix of "All Tomorrow's Parties" which featured a single track of lead vocals as opposed to the double-tracked vocal version on the original LP. Apparently, the decision to use the double-tracked version on the original LP was made at the last minute. Bill Levenson, who was overseeing the initial CD issues of the VU's Verve/MGM catalog, wanted to keep the single-voice version a secret as a surprise to fans, but was dismayed to find out that the alternate version was pointed as such on the CD's back cover (and noted as "previously unreleased"). [20]

The subsequent 1996 remastered CD reissue removed these changes, keeping the original album art and mixes found on the LP.

"Peel Slowly and See"

The Velvet Underground & Nico was released in its entirety on the five-year spanning box set, Peel Slowly and See, in 1995. The album was featured on the second disc of the set along with the single version of "All Tomorrow's Parties", two Nico tracks from Chelsea Girl and a live song. Also included in the set (on the first disc) are the band's 1965 Ludlow Street loft demos. Among these demos are early versions of "Venus in Furs", "Heroin", "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "All Tomorrow's Parties".

Deluxe Edition

In 2002, Universal released a two-disc "Deluxe Edition" set containing both stereo and mono mixes of the entire album, along with five songs taken from Nico's Chelsea Girl ("Little Sister", "Winter Song", "It Was a Pleasure Then", "Chelsea Girls", and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams", all these tracks have been written or co-written by members of the Velvet Underground) and single versions of "All Tomorrow's Parties", "I'll Be Your Mirror", "Sunday Morning", and "Femme Fatale". One critic wrote that the set was "somewhat disappointing in that it fails to offer any previously unreleased material",[21] but many agree that the inclusion of the mono version makes it a must-have for long-time fans. A studio demo of the unreleased track "Miss Joanie Lee" had been planned for inclusion on the set, but a dispute over royalties between the band and Universal canceled these plans. This contractual dispute apparently also led to the cancellation of further installments of the band's official Bootleg Series. A limited edition release of the set featured a reproduction of the original cover's peelable banana sticker.[21]

Scepter Studios acetate version

Label of the Norman Dolph acetate.

Norman Dolph's original acetate recording of the Scepter Studios material contains several recordings that would make it onto the final album, though many are different mixes of those recordings and three are different takes entirely. The acetate was cut on April 25, 1966, shortly after the recording sessions. It would resurface decades later when it was bought by collector Warren Hill of Montreal, Canada in September 2002 at a flea market in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City for $0.75.[22] Hill put the album up for auction on eBay in November. On December 8, 2006, a winning bid for $155,401 was placed, but not honored.[23] The album was again placed for auction on eBay and was successfully sold on December 16, 2006 for $25,200.[24]

It is important to note that ten songs were recorded during the Scepter sessions[3] and only nine appear on the acetate cut. Dolph recalls "There She Goes Again" being the missing song[25] (and, indeed, the version of "There She Goes Again" that appears on the final LP is attributed to the Scepter Studios session).

Though rumors have circulated concerning an eventual official release of this version of the album,[26] this has yet to be confirmed or announced by any major record label. However, a ripped version of the acetate began circulating the internet in January 2007.[27][28] Bootleg versions of the acetate tracks have also become available on vinyl and CD.[29]

Acetate track listing

  1. "European Son" – 8:49†
  2. "The Black Angel's Death Song" – 3:13†
  3. "All Tomorrow's Parties" – 5:51†
  4. "I'll Be Your Mirror" – 2:07†
  5. "Heroin" – 6:12‡
  6. "Femme Fatale" – 2:36†
  7. "Venus in Furs" – 4:35‡
  8. "I'm Waiting for the Man" – 4:11‡
  9. "Run Run Run" – 4:23†
† - denotes track as same take, but different mix from album version
‡ - denotes track as different take from album version

Personnel

The Velvet Underground & Nico

All arrangements are by The Velvet Underground.

Technical staff

Covers by other artists

In 2009, the American musician Beck recorded a track-for-track cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico and released it online in video form on his website, as part of a project called Record Club. Musicians involved in the recording include Beck plus Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker, Brian Lebarton, Bram Inscore, Yo, Giovanni Ribisi, Chris Holmes, and Thorunn Magnusdottir. [30]

References

  1. ^ a b "Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5938174/the_rs_500_greatest_albums_of_all_time.  
  2. ^ March 6, 2007 - Recordings by Historical Figures and Musical Legends Added To the 2006 National Recording Registry, News from the Library of Congress, 2006 National Recording Registry - The Library Today (Library of Congress)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harvard, Joe (2007) [2004]. The Velvet Underground and Nico. 33⅓. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8264-1550-4.  
  4. ^ Victor Bockris & Gerard Malanga; Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga (1996) [1983]. Up-tight: The Velvet Underground Story. Omnibus Press. ISBN 071195223X.  
  5. ^ "An Interview with Sterling Morrison," Fusion, March 6, 1970. Reproduced in All Yesterday's Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971, edited by Clinton Heylin (2005, Da Capo Press), p.146
  6. ^ Flanagan, Bill (April 1989). "White Light White Heat: Lou Reed and John Cale remember Andy Warhol". Musician Magazine.  
  7. ^ a b c d Bockris, Victor (2002). Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0815412851.  
  8. ^ a b c d Clinton Heylin, ed (2005). All Yesterday's Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971 (first ed.). United States: De Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81477-3.  
  9. ^ Bockris, Victor (1994). Transformer: The Lou Reed Story. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 106. ISBN 0306807521.  
  10. ^ Popmatters Review
  11. ^ Blender Review
  12. ^ Allmusic Review
  13. ^ Rolling Stone Album Guide Review
  14. ^ Robert Christgau Review
  15. ^ BBC Review
  16. ^ Klosterman, Chuck; Greg Milner, Alex Pappademus (April 2003). "Top Fifteen Most Influential Albums of All Time (... not recorded by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis and The Rolling Stones)". Spin: the Ultimate List Issue.  
  17. ^ 13) The Velvet Underground and Nico Rolling Stone, 1 November 2003
  18. ^ "The 50". The Observer, Guardian Arts. July 2006. http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1821231,00.html.  
  19. ^ The All-TIME 100 Albums, TIME.com
  20. ^ The Velvet Underground CDs at The Velvet Underground Web Page
  21. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. AMG review of the Deluxe Edition
  22. ^ Insanely Rare Velvet Underground LP on eBay for $19K at Pitchfork Media
  23. ^ Globe and Mail, "Rare acetate still seeks buyer"
  24. ^ [1], Second auction, ended December 16, 2006
  25. ^ The Velvet Underground - Studio and home recordings at The Velvet Underground Web Page
  26. ^ Owner of Velvet Underground Vinyl Talks eBay Auction at Pitchfork Media
  27. ^ Velvet Underground & Nico - April 1966 (Norman Dolph Acetate) at FM SHADES
  28. ^ Velvet Underground Acetate MP3s at WFMU
  29. ^ The Velvet Underground - Bootleg LP's at The Velvet Underground Web Page
  30. ^ Beck Remakes the Classics at Wall Street Journal

Simple English

The Velvet Underground & Nico
Studio album by The Velvet Underground and Nico
Released March 12, 1967 (1967-03-12)
Recorded April 1966, Scepter Studios, New York City, New York, United States; May 1966, T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood, California, United States; November 1966, Mayfair Studios, New York City
Genre Art rock
Experimental rock
Protopunk
Length 48:51
Language English
Label Verve
Producer Andy Warhol; Tom Wilson
The Velvet Underground chronology
The Velvet Underground & Nico
(1967)
White Light/White Heat
(1968)

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the first album by American rock band The Velvet Underground. It is said to be one of the greatest albums ever made. Rolling Stone ranked it the 13th best album of all time.

Songs from the album

All songs written by Lou Reed unless otherwise noted.

Side one
  1. "Sunday Morning" (Reed, Cale) – 2:54
  2. "I'm Waiting for the Man" – 4:39
  3. "Femme Fatale" – 2:38
  4. "Venus in Furs" – 5:12
  5. "Run Run Run" – 4:22
  6. "All Tomorrow's Parties" – 6:00
Side two
  1. "Heroin" – 7:12
  2. "There She Goes Again" – 2:41
  3. "I'll Be Your Mirror" – 2:14
  4. "The Black Angel's Death Song" (Reed, Cale) – 3:11
  5. "European Son" (Reed, Cale, Morrison, Tucker) – 7:46








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