The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
I’ve told you already that my favourite VU album is Loaded; it was the first VU album I heard in its entirety – but my introduction to The Velvet Underground was still the debut album – because I first heard songs from the debut album. So after grabbing Loaded I picked up “Banana”. I still remember that it was an event. A Friday night, me and three mates in the car – driving across town – I purchased The Velvet Underground debut, I remember that one of the other lads purchased Straitjacket Fits’ Blow on the same trip. Could Blow have existed without The Velvet Underground & Nico? I doubt it would have sounded quite the same. And of course you can listen to so many other bands carving out their version of The Velvet Underground & Nico whether it’s The Clean or The 3Ds or Sonic Youth – and, well, Brian Eno said it far better than me far earlier anyway and you lot all know that quote. Does that make “Banana” the most successful album that tanked? Probably. And isn’t it both completely obvious and hard to believe that it tanked when you listen to it now. Other bands could wish that The Velvet Underground & Nico was their greatest hits – but it’s just the start of very idiosyncratic journeys for both Lou Reed and John Cale. Then, you see, the key is in that title: The Velvet Underground & Nico. She is the key. Nico. She might not have been a good singer (though I certainly love what she does) she might have only been on three of the songs here – but she is the key. It’s probably because she’s only on three songs here that she’s the key. Lou Reed wrote all her material here but Nico is the key. And for an album I’ve all but killed, thrashed – played in to the ground – it still sounds fresh, vital, compelling, magical and so very much alive and kicking when I do give it the nudge once or twice a year on vinyl these days. Gave it a hoon just the other night. Lurid, dark, possibly evil in places, most certainly twisted. But there’s heart. And there’s a drive. There are ideas – it’s bursting with ideas. And it deserves every good word that’s ever been said about it. That and all the kudos from all those guys and girls that did go out and buy guitars and start bands as a result; there really can’t be a higher compliment.
Sample Track: European Son
The Vinyl Countdown is a document of every LP I listen to, brand new discoveries and old-old favourites; extremely pre-loved, previously abandoned or with the shrink-wrap having just been removed it’s all here at The Vinyl Countdown