Sunday, 26 February 2017
Back to the Velvets for the Sabbath. In days of yore (the late 80s) before the internet, before cds (for me at least, I didn't start buying cds until the mid/late 90s), before re-issues and bands reforming, box sets with alternate takes and full live sets, there was precious little to go off with The Velvet Underground. You had the four studio albums (if you could find them), the two live albums (Max's Kansas City and 1969), the VU and Another View albums and a book by Victor Bockris (Uptight; The Story of The Velvet Underground). These were not just records and a book, they were portals to another world. It was a world that was gone, it did not exist anymore (New York, the late 1960s). Lou Reed had a patchy solo career so there were occasional interviews but the heritage rock press did not exist either so there was a dearth of information. What you knew about the group came from Bockris' text, the handful of pictures in the book, the rumour and talk of like minded people and the songs themselves.
1968's White Light/White Heat album was their most obtuse and difficult album, a rejection of everyone who didn't buy their first album. Here She Comes Now and I Heard Her Call My Name are the closest to conventional guitar songs but wrapped and covered in feedback. The Gift was a spoken word/avant garde exploration with stereo sound. Lady Godiva's Operation had some of Lou's most transgressive lyrics.Sister Ray was a one take song, seventeen minutes of legend, covered by New Order, a story of transvestites, sailors and drug dealers. No bass guitar. Distorted organ. Heady stuff. And the title track (two versions below, from a 7" single re-issue), a statement of intent, a song about speed. This song and Sister Ray are the ones that are 'easiest' to copy when you're learning to play the guitar. Pick two chords and bash away until you're done. White heat.
White Light/White Heat 1
White Light/White Heat 2