MY 33 FAVORITE RECORDING ARTISTS #27- THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

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On my countdown of My 33 Favorite Recording Artists- up to #27- The Velvet Underground. The Velvet Underground suffers a bit on the list -like #28- Creedence Clearwater Revival in the fact that their career was so brief. The Velvet Underground only released four albums- from 1967-70 { I do not count the album Squeeze as a Velvet Underground album- released in 1973 the Velvets from the Lou Reed era were gone. I have never even seen this album.}

The great Brian Eno quote about The Velvet Underground was probably the truth-

“The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”

The Velvet Underground were never a big album seller and singles- although they had many songs that in my mind should have been great singles- they never came close to having a hit. Their debut album which in my opinion is the greatest debut ever- was the highest charting album they ever had at #129.  They released singles but none ever made the Hot 100.

 

Not long after I got into music big in the mid to late 70’s I came across The Velvet Underground in my readings- about how great and influential they were. I knew of and started buying Lou Reed albums but for a few years I never saw an album from The Velvet Underground on sale at any of the record stores I frequented. They were legendary but their music was impossible to find. When I finally came across the albums I was not a bit disappointed

I am sure cases can be made for other bands but I’ve always viewed The Velvet Underground as the first alternative rock band. Like many pioneer bands- artists they weren’t recognized in their time but their influence has been great. In 1967 they were probably too out there with their sounds- and lyrics- they were writing songs dealing with decadence- drugs, sex, perversions. Not that topics for Top 40 radio. While other groups were hinting at drug use in their music- The Velvet Underground was right out front with it in songs like Heroin and I”m Waiting For The Man.

The Dean of Rock Critics- Robert Christgau considers The Velvet Underground the #3 band of the 1960-s after The Beatles and James Brown and Famous Flames. Rolling Stone Magazine named them the 19th greatest artist- impressive when you consider again they only made four albums. The Velvet Underground is one of the most influential bands ever which is amazing when you think of how few albums they sold- bands influenced by The Velvet Underground- David Bowie, Joy Division, The Talking Heads,  U2- [Bono once said that every song U2 has ever written was a rip off of Lou Reed’s songs} Beck, Sonic Youth, R.E.M, The Stooges- basically every alternative type who came after them.

Favorite Velvet Underground albums- well all four of them. You can’t just own one- you need them all.

Favorite Velvet Underground songs-

  • The entire first album- The Velvet Underground and Nico.
  • Sister Ray
  • Here She Comes Now
  • Candy Says
  • What Goes On
  • Pale Blue Eyes
  • Jesus
  • Beginning To See The Light
  • Who Loves The Sun
  • Sweet Jane
  • Rock &Roll
  • New Age

 

 

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8 responses to “MY 33 FAVORITE RECORDING ARTISTS #27- THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

  1. The Velvet Underground (cool name, BTW, in my opinion) keep popping up on my music radar screen every now and then. I haven’t explored their music in greater detail. Your sentiment that their first album is the best debut ever certainly has made me curious, so I’ll add them to my growing list of artists to explore.😀

    I think Velvet also illustrate that at the end of the day an artist’s remaining impact is measured by the quality of the music, not how many albums they have released.

    One of the most prominent examples I can think of is Cream. They only released three albums (four if you count Goodbye, which came out after they had disbanded), yet left on ongoing mark on rock music.

    • I think if The Velvet Underground had come out in the early 80’s they would have been huge- one of those trailblazing groups who paved the way for others but didn’t reap the rewards during their time.

  2. I think my problem with the VU was that I heard Lou Reed’s ‘Rock n Roll Animal’ when I was 12 (belonging to my older brother) which has fantastic dual guitars by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. Then when I moved back to explore VU, they seemed primitive [1]. There’s a fifth studio album, attributed to VU, but in reality just Doug Yule (the bassist who took over from John Cale) and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice. Very poor reviews. – Chris
    [1 – when I wrote that I remembered that The Primitives were Reed’s pre-VU band so it seemed apt to keep it in.]

  3. “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” Yes, so true! Just like Joy Division, they never got the commercial success they deserved while they were around. 😕 Great band. “I am beginning to see the light” is an amazing song. 🙂

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