By the mid to late 60s, the flower children, hippies, counter culture, or whatever you want to call it had risen and spread their ideals of peace and love. There was one thing wrong with their ideals, though : they were unrealisitc
. By 1966-1967, a hands came around that were the polar opposites of the peace loving hippies. The Stooges , the MC5, theVelvet Undground, etc. wrote songs about what they experienced; the real world. The songs were harsh in music, lyrics, and overrall approach. They were from the stark industrial cities, where reality was a bitch and copping heroin was your main goal for the day, not spreading peace and love. The Velvet Undeground formed the basis on which bands like the first-wave punk bands, and eventually, bands like Sonic Youth, would build on. Lou Reed wrote cynical, realistic songs about city life, with the full band droning behind him, like a piece of factory equipment. Sometimes, the songs would go on for longer than they should, but that's the charm of them. The Velvet Underground and Nico
was their first release, in 1967, and is a milestone of rock music.
The Velvet Undergound and Nico
mainly consists of two types of songs : harsh, droning songs, and beautiful, droning songs. The songs eventually become very hypnotic, as in "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Venus in Furs," with the instrumentation repeating over and over, as if you were hearing cars constantly passing by without relenting. "Sunday Morning" is a rather beautiful song, with a very pop-sounding xylophone melody, and is a completely false representation of most of the songs on the album. The song is one of the shortest, also, lasting only around two minutes, and gives way to "I'm Waiting for the Man," an undeinable classic. "I'm Waiting for the Man" depicts a junkie's daily routine. The character goes to score some dope, in a side of the town where he is rather out of place, and the dealer is late, as always. The character eventually scores the dope, and takes it, and then tells of how he will have to repeat the process all over again. The instrumentation is rather harsh sounding, with stacatto guitar playing, the same note or two hammered on piano, and pounding drums.
Nico also makes her presence on many of the songs here, and makes them her own, with her rather low, baroque voice. The repetitive, and quiet "Femme Fatale," which contains some great backing vocals by the band, the grand "All Tommorow's Parties," with some majestic piano work and Nico's rather low voice, and the beautiful, almost poppy sounding "I'll Be Your Mirror," with tambourine and some simplistic, and melodic guitar playing that suits the lyrics and Nico's voice very well. These songs are a lot better than some people make them out to be. They are are simple and melodic pop songs, unlike the songs that Lou Reed sings on, for the most part.
There are also some fantastic representations of the Velvet Underground's avant-garde leanings, which would would further influence noise-rock and no-wave bands of the 80s and 90s. "Venus in Furs" contains a crude viola melody from John Cale, with pounding toms and a nasty vocal accompaniment. The true highlight of the album, though, is "Heroin" an extremely dark song with some droning accompaniment, and eventually goes into complete chaos with John Cale's viola noise and the band going at full force. "The Black Angel's Death Song" is basically all just noise, and is probaly the darkest song here, which is fantastic, and "European Son," which seems to be a cynical attack at art-hipsters, starts out with a chromatic bass line, and eventually a car crash sound bursts out and the band starts making as much noise as they possibly can, with both Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison go haywire, hitting random notes and droning on with shots of feedback, Maureen Tucker pouding constantly on the toms, John Cale tremelo-picking and bending bass notes, etc. and is a very good example of insanity. They would eventually further this noise-jam on White Light/White Heat
with "Sister Ray," a full 10 minues longer than "European Son".
Overall, The Velvet Underground and Nico
is a classic album, one of the first rock bands to combine the avant-garde, freeform jazz, rock, and pop music all into one album. It's sad that "classic rock" stations don't play the VU, because they are one of the most classic of them all. This is the bible to 70s and 80s underground music, and should remain so to this day. One of the greatest albums of all time.