The Velvet Underground Vinyl, CD & tapes by The Velvet Underground at Norman Records
The bloody Velvet Underground eh? Where would we be without them? They were the first band that you could describe as indie/underground and the first band to be ignored in their lifetime only to receive plaudits after they split up. They also invented sunglasses.
Their original line up was the classic four piece - Lou Reed (laconic drawl and sunglasses), John Cale (Welsh multi-instrumentalist and sunglasses), Sterling Morrison (guitar and sunglasses) Moe Tucker (floor tom and snare and sunglasses). Reed wrote incredible songs, often about death or drugs or sex. Then the band shaped them into two distinct patterns, either glintingly melodic or wildly experimental. Artist Andy Warhol loved them so much he not only bought the company, he had them play at his Exploding Plastic Inevitable showcased and plonked a sultry German-born singer and model by the name of Nico in front of them. Their debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico was a delight. Delicious sunny side up guitar pop combined with droning mantras and viola-led discordant workouts. It has more soon-to-be-classic songs than you could shake a stick at but nobody bought it. Nico and Warhol had both moved on by the time of 1968’s White Light White Heat which saw the band plunge further into a corrosive anti-pop sound with extended improvisations and rackety distorted rock. Lou Reed by now was tiring of the avant garde though and wanted some success and that wasn’t going to happen with a screeching viola over the top of everything so Cale was fired.
The more conventional Doug Yule replaced Cale and their self titled third album was a lovely batch of soft focus confessional pop music that contains some of their best known songs. It has a simple, folky feel that would go on to influence scores of musicians from the Modern Lovers to Talking Heads and the Feelies. Things then became a bit of a mess. Loaded was released in 1970 and contains ten new Lou Reed songs including 'Sweet Jane' and 'Who Loves The Sun'… the only problem being that Reed had left the band prior to release. Incredibly the band soldiered on and released the lamentable 'Squeeze' in 1973 - a record on which the line-up contained a total of zero original members. It was a sad way for such a legendary band to sign out but as Reed and Cale enjoyed successful solo careers, a new breed of listeners were finding out about their records. In the 70s they influenced punk and new wave, in the 80s they had a hand in C86 and the indie explosion and in the 90s shoegaze and noise rock bands were citing them as an inspiration. There was a (perhaps ill-advised) reunion in the early ‘90s before Sterling Morrison and incredibly the seemingly indestructible Lou Reed both passed on. They were cool, they were sexy, they wrote great songs and influenced literally every good thing that happened since. They were the goddamn Velvet Underground.
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