Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Velvet Underground - Velvet Underground & Nico

POST 100

Only been 10 days and now 100 posts. I promise I'll slow down, just having fun. I try to listen to each record before I upload it, refresh my memory, to remember where I was when I first heard the songs or what memories come flooding back. So I've been pondering which record to mark the 100. I suspect that most of you already have this. This is arguably one of the most influential records of modern rock. So many bands cite this record as being a major influence in there music. (including Died Pretty) What a famous and classic cover. As for me, I know this record lead me in the direction of the music I listened to and what music I played.

The Velvet Underground was an American rock band first active from 1965 to 1970 (& 1970 to 1973 in a different incarnation). Its best-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale.

Although never commercially successful whilst together, the Velvet Underground are often cited by critics as one of the most important and influential groups of their era. A famous remark, often attributed to British musician Brian Eno, is that while only a few thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground record upon its release, almost every single one of them was inspired to start a band. Their sound influenced many later musicians in many genres, including experimental, post-punk, new wave, and gothic rock.

Andy Warhol became the band’s manager in 1965 and suggested they feature the German-born singer Nico on several songs. Warhol’s reputation helped the band gain a higher profile. Warhol helped the band secure a coveted recording contract with MGM’s Verve Records, with himself as nominal “producer”, and gave the Velvets free rein over the sound they created.

During their stay with Andy Warhol, the band became part of his multimedia roadshow, Exploding Plastic Inevitable, for which they provided the music. They played shows for several months in New York City, then traveled throughout the United States and Canada until its last installment in May 1967. The show included 16 mm film projections and colors by Warhol.

At Warhol's insistence, Nico sang with the band on three songs off their debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico. The album was recorded primarily in Scepter Studios in New York City during April. It was released by Verve Records in March 1967.

The album cover was famous for its Warhol design: a bright yellow banana with “Peel slowly and see” printed near a perforated tab. Those who did remove the banana skin found a pink, peeled banana beneath. This would later be used as the cover to one of several Velvets boxed sets, also titled Peel Slowly and See, released in 1995.

Eleven songs showcased their dynamic range, veering from the pounding attacks of "I’m Waiting for the Man" and "Run Run Run", the droning "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin" to the quiet "Femme Fatale" and the tender "I’ll Be Your Mirror", as well as Warhol's own favorite song of the group, the magnificent "All Tomorrow's Parties".

The overall sound was propelled by Reed’s deadpan vocals, Cale's droning viola, Morrison's often rhythm and blues– or country-influenced guitar, and Tucker’s simple but steady beat. Nico's European-accented vocal contributions lent an otherworldly quality to the group.

The album was released on March 12, 1967, peaking at #171 on Billboard magazine's Top 200 charts. The promising commercial d├ębut of the album was dampened somewhat by legal complications: the album’s back cover featured a photo of the group playing live with another image projected behind them; the projected image was a still from a Warhol motion picture, Chelsea Girls. The film’s cinematographer, Eric Emerson, had been arrested for drug possession and, desperate for money, claimed the still had been included on the album without his permission (in the image his face appears quite big, but upside down). MGM Records pulled all copies of the album until the legal problems were settled (by which time the record had lost its modest commercial momentum), and the still was airbrushed out.


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