The Velvet Underground and Nico
Studio album by The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Velvet Underground and Nico is the debut The Velvet Underground and Nico
Studio album by The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Velvet Underground and Nico is the debut album by experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and vocal collaborator Nico. It was originally released in March 1967 by Verve Records, a subsidiary of MGM Records.
Recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour, The Velvet Underground and Nico would gain notoriety for its experimentalist performance sensibilities, as well as its focus on controversial subject matter in songs such as "Heroin".
Though largely ignored upon its release, it has since become one of the most influential and critically lauded rock albums in history, appearing as #13 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Librarian of Congress.
The Velvet Underground and Nico is sometimes referred to as the "banana album" as it features 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.
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.
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".
Track History: Recorded April 1966 at Scepter Studios, New York City, the music is dominated by the piercing sound of John Cale's electric viola, creating dissonance throughout the song. Also throughout the song are loud bursts of audio feedback, primarily from Cale hissing into the microphone. The guitars in the song are downtuned a whole step (as is common with a handful of other songs on The Velvet Underground and Nico).
The song is a good example of the avant-garde nature of The Velvet Underground. Lou Reed's intense, ranting, nasal delivery — in the manner of a preacher's hellfire-and-damnation sermon — and the deliberately fragmented, often nonsensical lyrics — full of cryptic and forbidding imagery — are particularly unorthodox for the time that they were written and recorded. Some have suggested that the song is a parody of/homage to the vocal and lyrical style of Bob Dylan.
Lyrics: The myriad choices of his fate
Set themselves out upon a plate
For him to choose
What had he to lose
Not a ghost bloodied country
All covered with sleep
Where the black angel did weep
Not an old city street in the east
Gone to choose
And wandering's brother
Walked on through the night
With his hair in his face
On a long splintered cut from the knife of G.T.
The rally man's patter ran on through the dawn
Until we said so long
To his skull-shrill yell
Shining brightly red-rimmed and
Red-lined with the time
Infused with the choice of the mind
On ice skates scraping chunks
From the bills
Cut mouth bleeding razor's
Forgetting the pain
Antiseptic remains cool goodbye
So you fly
To the cozy brown snow of the east
Gone to choose, choose again
Sacrificials remains make it hard to forget
Where you come from
The stools of your eyes
Serve to realize fame, choose again
And roverman's refrain of the sacrilege recluse
For the loss of a horse
Went the bowels and a tail of a rat
Come again, choose to go
And if Epiphany's terror reduced you to shame
Have your head bobbed and weaved
Choose a side to be on
If the stone glances off
Split didactics in two
Leave the colors of the mouse trails
Don't scream, try between
If you choose, if you choose, try to lose
For the loss of remain come and start
Start the game I che che che che I
Che che che ka tak koh
Choose to choose
Choose to choose, choose to go