SOME THOUGHTS ON THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

VU_66promophoto

I found another selection of what I had previously thought were lost postings from the old blog the other day. They were from the month of April 2011….a time when I needed to take a break from blogging but the wonderful Ctel, along with many other incredible friends from the blogosphere, stepped in and kept things going. I think its a series of postings I will return to at some point, but in the meantime, here’s an adaptation of something I wrote on 1 April 2011. And not as a joke either.

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Strange as it may seem, I wasn’t a fan of The Velvet Underground back in the 80s even though I knew that so much of their sound influenced many of my favourite bands; indeed most of said bands were not slow in putting out cover versions of VU songs.

This attitude was all because of my unwritten rule of thumb that I wasn’t all that interested in listening to old bands, especially those from the generation before mine. It’s also why I don’t ‘get’ The Beatles or Elvis Presley – I’ve never really given them a try. And being a totally inconsistent sod, I shouldn’t have ever given a chance to The Kinks or Johnny Cash – but I did and loved them.

But I was stubborn about VU for decades. Until last year (2010) when I spent all of £3 on a greatest hits CD compilation, I owned nothing of theirs.  Having given the CD a few listens I’m now willing to admit that some of their songs are pretty decent, including this handful:-

mp3 : The Velvet Underground – I’m Waiting For The Man
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Rock ‘n’ Roll
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane
mp3 : The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs

The 1967 debut LP Velvet Underground & Nico is the original home of both I’m Waiting For The Man and Venus In Furs. I first heard the former as a cover recorded by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as the b-side to their 1980 single Messages. I liked the cover enough to seek out a mate who had VU records to shove the original on a tape for me. I wasn’t moved enough at the time to fall in love with the song…..but at the same time I didn’t have a real dislike of it. It just sounded a bit dated and one-paced. It was only maybe 5 years later when I started really listening to Jonathan Richman that I realised that the sound, far from being dated was in fact timeless and still worth a listen. But I still didn’t buy any of their releases.

Venus In Furs is another track folk tried to get me to listen to when I was a lot younger. It didn’t do anything for me. But now that my listening tastes have matured, I can see that this is a hugely significant piece of music that has influenced so many, not least Tindersticks, a band I championed many a time over on the old blog.

From the 1969 LP The Velvet Underground there can be no surprise that Pale Blue Eyes gets featured as one of my five songs by the VU  given my love of the cover recorded by Paul Quinn & Edwyn Collins. A cover that in my humble opinion is way superior to the original…..

Finally, from the 1970 release Loaded, you will find the tracks Rock’n’Roll and Sweet Jane.

The former is one that I have only recently fallen for. I didn’t know it at all until I picked up the compilation CD…well that is not technically true as I had heard it a few times over the years at various indie-disco or club nights…..but it sort of washed over me.  But hearing it loud on the headphones while sitting on the beach under gloriously clear blue skies changed everything.  Shake your thang hispsters…..and play that air guitar solo!! The latter has an appalling first 17 seconds…..just ignore it and listen to Lou Reed telling you he’s standing on the corner with his suitcase in his hand…….and then take in the remaining near four minutes and accept that it is a wonderful song that I’m ashamed took me far too long to appreciate.

But despite all that I’ve said above in praise of these five songs there’s still too many of the VU songs, certainly on the Very Best Of….CD that still don’t do it for me. But c’mon, I have softened my attitude in recent years and am prepared to acknowledge they deserve their place in the list of important bands that have recorded popular music.

Enjoy.