BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

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BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby space. invadere » 27 Oct 2014, 22:40

Image

They were wild like the USA
A mystery band in a New York way
Rock and roll but not like the rest
And to me, America at it's best
How in the world were they making that sound
Velvet Underground

A spooky tone on a Fender bass
Played less notes and left more space
Stayed kind of still, looked kinda shy
Kinda far away, kinda dignified
How in the world were they making that sound
Velvet Underground

Now you can look at that band and wonder
Where all that sound was coming from
With just four people there

Twangy sounds of the cheapest types
Sounds as stark as black and white stripes
Bold and brash, sharp and rude
Like the heats turned off and you're low on food
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground
Like this

Wild, wild parties when they start to unwind
A close encounter of the thirdest kind
On the bandstand playing, everybody's saying
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground

Well you could look at that band
And at first sight
Say that certain rules about modern music
Wouldn't apply tonight

Twangy sounds of the cheapest kind
Like 'Guitar Sale $29.99'
Bold and brash, stark and still
Like the heats turned off and you can't pay the bill
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground

Both guitars got the fuzz tone on
The drummer's standing upright pounding along
A howl, a tone, a feedback whine
Biker boys meet the college kind
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground

Wild, wild parties when they start to unwind
A close encounter of the thirdest kind
On the bandstand grooving, everybody moving
How in the world are they making that sound?
Velvet Underground



To me, they still sound like no other band. Which is remarkable, as they influenced SO many that followed. And yet no-one (it seems) has been able to come close. Maybe they're afraid of being accused of stealing those ideas.


It was the single most exciting music-related moment of my life when I first heard them. I was 16, and I bought this cassette:

Image

I was lucky - the first two tracks were 'White Light/White Heat' and 'What Goes On'. They remain my two absolute favourites.

It was like everything else I'd heard before became sort of redundant, second-rate. Doors opened that I didn't even know existed. Lights went on. I wouldn't have thought it was possible. I wanted to tell everyone, but I was only with my family, who didn't get it at all, of course. It didn't matter so much tho' because the music gave me so much joy! I wanted to live inside it.

Jonathan's right - it was that sound. I mean, there were great songs, but they always had a special power because of that slightly spooky sound - it was there in the quiet songs and the loud songs.

I bought Uptight and devoured it. Those photos just added to the appeal. They were different. There's a strong mythology there, and that will, I think, only grow as the years go by. I meet hip kids here who are well into the band - you see something switching on in their eyes when they're talking about them. I remember Lou's quote about it being important not to feel alone. The Velvet Underground do that for people.

I like the first, third and Loaded about equally (the second one doesn't do a whole lot for me today, the title track aside). There are boring things dotted about the whole discography. But the good stuff is so precious. They made the best stuff that the Beatles didn't. Nobody had to. We could have seen out the whole decade without anyone reaching those heights, being as fucked-up and as musically adventurous. We were lucky they got together.

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 27 Oct 2014, 22:54

Timely - Reed died a year ago today.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Quaco » 27 Oct 2014, 23:28

Everything they did was a little skewed from the normal way, and it all adds up to a completely different picture, an alternate reality rock and roll. I think it really revolves around Moe Tucker's nonstandard drum setup and the way it suggested things and left spaces to be filled (or not) by other things. It's too simple to say it's about "minimalism" because some of their stuff is quite energetic and cluttered. Having no bass drum created less bottom end, and the need to have a bass guitar all the time. So, you have half the band sounding different already. It was more about the blaring guitars and viola and, of course, the vocals. They could do things with piano or organ instead of bass without the bottom dropping out. They explored feedback like The Who/Jimi Hendrix (Cale said something about hearing "My Generation" and telling Lou they'd better get it together or The Who were going to beat them to it), but instead of it being a ritual debasement of popular music or somesuch, it was just a raw howl, because the band was already a black-and-white outline of a band rather than a full-color band with real players and bass and drums and harmonies and everything.

I adore the first two. I love the third as well. But while I like the fourth -- there's nothing wrong with it and I like everything on it -- it's just not the same. I do think it is the more conventional drum style. The fourth is what they might have been had they not had Moe Tucker. Interesting and edgy, but not ancient, stark or unique.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Jeff K » 28 Oct 2014, 01:07

I didn't get an actual Velvets album until that VU compilation which came out in the mid 80's. After that release the first three albums were reissued and I scooped them all up which started a major Velvets obsession with me. Out of all the proto-punk bands, VU were the only ones I didn't own an actual album of. I had several Lou Reed solo albums, Paris 1919 and the Modern Lovers but not the band that actually started the whole thing. I remember finally hearing a few of their songs and thinking they paled in comparison to the versions that turned up on Rock and Roll Animal which is probably why I wasn't in a hurry to get the original LP's. I've since come to my senses and realized how foolish I was at the time.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby pig bodine » 28 Oct 2014, 01:22

The thing about them is that they really weren't that unknown a band back in the old days when everyone seems to think they were buried somewhere. They were in all of the "history of rock" books, being a critic's band, and 1969 Live, Loaded, and Max's Kansas City were never out of print. Bangs mentioned them in practically every issue of Creem, and in the punk era, there was as much ink spilled on them as ELO. It's not like my mother had heard of them, but anyone who read the monthly rock rags did--they may not have heard the music or had the desire to seek them out, but it's not like they were some lost garage band from Iowa with two 45's on some local label.

I have a love/disinterest relationship with them, basically out of overexposure. I can go for years without playing their albums, but when I hear them, I enjoy them.

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Jeff K » 28 Oct 2014, 01:40

pig bodine wrote: They were in all of the "history of rock" books, being a critic's band, and 1969 Live, Loaded, and Max's Kansas City were never out of print.


For the longest time those three albums were the only three available. I remember reading in Creem or Circus that the two live records were recorded off of cassettes which probably put me off from buying them. I also remember seeing the banana album in a mall record store but thought the cover looked stupid. What can I say? I was young and naive.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Bent Fabric » 28 Oct 2014, 03:23

A spooky tone on a Fender bass
Played less notes and left more space
Stayed kind of still, looked kinda shy
Kinda far away, kinda dignified
How in the world were they making that sound
Velvet Underground

Twangy sounds of the cheapest kind
Like 'Guitar Sale $29.99'
Bold and brash, stark and still
Like the heats turned off and you can't pay the bill
How in the world were they making that sound?
Velvet Underground


I don't know that I'll ever need to hear this song, but...does he capture the essence of his subject or not? This is beautiful stuff. Lump in the throat.

You know, I wouldn't change a single thing about the arc of my relationship with them. They were present in some way before I decided I wanted in (people like my stepdad telling me how cool Lou Reed was probably delayed my getting into them for several years), but...it kind of had to be MY move, on MY terms, and...the timing couldn't have been charted any more optimally than the way it played out. I was 18, bought the debut - probably the perfect gateway for me, personally - and fell in love with it fairly rapidly. Over the next year or so, WLWH, Loaded and the two outtakes collections would add to my obsession. The third one took the longest by far (to be fair, it really doesn't exactly jump out at you). By the time I would notice how "token alternative" they were to ye olde indie/college rocker, it wouldn't matter, cause...they were already mine.

I'd say they are the epitome of oft copied, never duplicated - people seem to grab at certain signifiers, be it the muted nature of the third album, or the insistence of Sterling Morrison's guitar, but...no. There's simply no way to get there. The Velvets turned off the lights and locked up behind themselves when they left.

I go cold on them like most lifelong fans - you obsess, and then suddenly you forget that you ever wanted to hear them. They always come back, though. Certain songs pop up out of nowhere and just...REMIND you. They really ARE a parallel universe Beatles - right down to the indifference and fatigue they can inspire in even their biggest fans.

For all the traditional elements in their makeup (doo wop, drones, tin pan alley, garage, classic rock and roll, balladry, classical, etc.), they really don't come off as REMOTELY "trad. arr.". It's not like you listen to that body of work and chart the ingredients like you would with, say, Big Star or even the Ramones. I mean, I know things about them that could conceivably fill in the blanks, but...in some way they STILL seem futuristic.

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby toomanyhatz » 28 Oct 2014, 03:54

I have said so much about them here over the years I don't really think there's much I can add, but I can reiterate. What makes them so great is - whatever it is you think is great about them is only half the story.

You want the avant-noise, they've got you covered. But don't forget that they have a quiet side that can be absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful. And don't forget that for every song based around a two-chord drone, they also have a beautiful pop one with an inventive bridge, plus ones with brilliant guitar interplay, ones with the densest lyrics you can imagine, and even some very direct 3-chorders with pop culture references. They kept it simple. They played it complex. They have songs in miniature and epics that seem like they could go on for days.

BF nails it when he calls them an alternate universe Beatles. They are absolutely every 'alternative' musical context realized to its fullest. On some days they are the greatest band there could ever be. They sounded advanced in 1966, and still do. They've influenced every generation since, but nobody's captured more than one aspect of their many.

Best song - Today it's "I'll Be Your Mirror." It could be any of at least a dozen tomorrow.

Best album - I think it's still the first, but it could be any of the first four on any given day.

Most underrated album - Loaded, absolutely. In that context - it wasn't a drug reference, it was a reference to it being 'loaded with hits' - they delivered, big time, albeit not to Lou's specifications. There is just so much there - and all the evidence you need that they could 'play it straight' and still be better than anyone else.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Jeemo » 28 Oct 2014, 07:03

I'd not long started working in the record shop. Still at school. I had heard of them but not sure I had heard them. I knew some Lou Reed songs. One of my co workers put on the first album. Venus in Furs stood out a mile, the off kilter melody and the steady beat pulled me in.

The first four are great, understatement of the year.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Goat Boy » 28 Oct 2014, 09:09

I’ve never loved them quite as much as some folks on here in all honesty and I’ve never been obsessed my them. Some of their stuff I find quite boring but then you’ve got Venus In Furs, Waiting For The Man, I Can’t Stand It, I’m Set Free, What Goes On etc etc. Some of the greatest rock n roll songs ever of course. Up there with anybody you’d care to mention. And they could do pretty really well of course – Sunday Morning, I’ll Be Your Mirror, Jesus…… The sound thing is key of course. Not many bands have sounded quite so marvellously spooked and haunting. It adds a great deal of magic to those songs. You can’t really understate this fact.

I’ve slagged off the debut on here before but that was at least partly due to drunken iconoclasm on my part but it’s a record I admire rather than outright love. I can’t stand that teutonic goth Nico as well and I’d much rather listen to, say, Murder Mystery than European Son. I adore the third album though. I think it’s a gorgeous record. Really magical. I love Loaded as well. The second is a bit of a drag. The unreleased stuff really adds something to their legend though.

I don’t want to say they’re overrated because it’s such a tired, clichéd thing to say and for a band who were so original they deserve better. I understand completely why people rate them so highly but let’s just say that in my own personal pantheon they aren’t quite right up there.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby robin goodfellow » 28 Oct 2014, 10:14

If it wasn't for Bowie no one would of heard of them.

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Rayge » 28 Oct 2014, 10:21

robin goodfellow wrote:If it wasn't for Bowie no one would of heard of them.

Who the fuck is 'Bowie'? Didn't he die at the Alamo?
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby space. invadere » 28 Oct 2014, 11:23

robin goodfellow wrote:If it wasn't for Bowie no one would of heard of them.


It's funny - I finished the Nico biog and just started the Bowie one (by Trynka). He said that when DB was in NYC in 1971, he was delighted to find that the Velvets were playing a gig. He went to see them, and afterwards he approached Lou Reed to say how much he was a fan, and that he was covering 'Waiting for the Man' in concert.

It wasn't Lou Reed, tho' - it was Doug Yule.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby jim courier » 28 Oct 2014, 12:20

Best songs Sunday Morning, I'll be your mirror, Story of my life, New Age, Out sweet nuthin and Lisa says

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Copehead » 28 Oct 2014, 16:01

First 2 Albums are truly great, the loss of Cale lost them their experimental edge and most of what made them interesting besides Reed's undoubted abilities as a rock song writer.

Like most people claim the Doug Yule album isn't real VU, I'd make that claim for any non-Cale album.

Just about all that made them VU is on those first two albums bar a handful of great soft rock songs.

The bands influenced by the first 2 albums tend to be pretty good, that bands based around Sweet Jane VU tend to be a bit shite

Actually most bands influenced by VU are pretty shite because they are all about Reed rather than Cale.

I'd also point out that it was fucking hard to find a copy of TVU&N in the early 80s.

There was a guy with the Banana on the back of his Leather Jacket at Uni in the year above me and I wasn't sure even he had it.

Think I obtained it through Cob Records eventually.

But it just goes to show how few of those albums were in circulation in the UK.

The only record I had a hard time sourcing was Fried, had to cough for an extortionately priced white label sans sleeve bought off Oxford Street in the end

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby space. invadere » 28 Oct 2014, 16:10

After Cale left they recorded/put out:

What Goes On
Pale Blue Eyes
Beginning To See The Light
I Can't Stand It
Lisa Says
Sweet Jane
Rock and Roll
New Age

Now, you might prefer the earlier, generally noisier stuff, but to think of those songs as the products of an inferior band is just wrong.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Copehead » 28 Oct 2014, 16:28

it is wrote:After Cale left they recorded/put out:

What Goes On
Pale Blue Eyes
Beginning To See The Light
I Can't Stand It
Lisa Says
Sweet Jane
Rock and Roll
New Age

Now, you might prefer the earlier, generally noisier stuff, but to think of those songs as the products of an inferior band is just wrong.


That is the handful of good soft rock songs that I mentioned.

I do think they are inferior without Cale, the song writing is still good, sonically they are nowhere near.

Beginning to See the Light is one of my favourite VU songs, but it doesn't change my opinion that they are not as good a band without Cale.

Actually it is one of the few post-Cale songs where they really let rip which is probably why I like it so much.
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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby robertff » 28 Oct 2014, 16:51

robin goodfellow wrote:If it wasn't for Bowie no one would of heard of them.




Perhaps if it wasn't for VU no-one would have heard of Bowie.

For me the third is their best.


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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby jim courier » 28 Oct 2014, 16:52

The Lisa Says and Sweet Jane live versions on the 69 album are gorgeous

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Re: BCB 130 - The Velvet Underground

Postby Jeemo » 28 Oct 2014, 18:55

Not sure why you found it hard to a copy of the first. I worked in a record shop we sold the first regularly and had no problems reordering new copies. That was 1979_1982.
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