There is a saying, often attributed to either Brian Eno or Peter Buck, that “the first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”.  After listening to this album for the first time a few weeks ago, I can now see how it influenced so many bands that came after in many different genres (is this the first alternative rock album?).  To me, it sounds like a very New York version of the Doors (“The End” would fit right in on this album), and it is very raw and edgy.  At times, like on “Venus in Furs”, the instruments go completely out of tune, but the band keeps playing through it like a bar band would at two in the morning.

My only issue with this album is Nico.  Far be it for me to disagree with the brilliance of Andy Warhol (who forced the band to add her in for this record), but she sounds like a German baritone with emphysema, which is not exactly the sound I expect from a “chanteuse” as she is billed in the credits.  At least she only sings three songs, and the band fired her and Andy Warhol shortly after this album was released.  Oh, and btw, good job Andy of putting your name on the cover instead of the name of your band.

I couldn’t find this album used anywhere, so I bought it new on Amazon for $5.67.  Before listening to it, the only song I knew from it was “Heroin”, as that had been featured in the Oliver Stone movie “The Doors” back while I was in high school.  Despite my disdain for Nico, Lou Reed is pretty amazing on this album, and the band does artistic justice to all of his lyrics.

Other lists: “I’m Waiting for the Man” is #161 and “Heroin” is #455 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The Velvet Underground is #19 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists.  Lou Reed is #62 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers (Nico appears to have been left off the list) and #81 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.

My favorite track: “Venus in Furs”

Honorable mention: “Heroin”

Quote: “I don’t know just where I’m going, but I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can.”

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