A half-century on, The Velvet Underground and Nico remains the quintessential emblem of a certain brand of countercultural cool. Not the Haight-Ashbury or Sgt. Pepper kind but an eerier, artier, more NYC-rooted strain. Bolstered by the patronage of Andy Warhol and the exotic vocal contributions of Nico, Lou Reed , John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker declared their independence from Top 40 decorum with a gritty, innovative and unapologetically self-possessed work. In many ways, The Velvet Underground and Nico was the first rock album that truly seemed to invite the designation alternative. What we were doing was churning out these rip-off albums.
1. Sunday Morning
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Reed took the lead, relegating Nico to background vocals. In the studio, Cale discovered the celesta that would give Sunday Morning its eeriness. Only the Velvets could make a song both pretty and distressing. It represents an aesthetic high point for the Velvet Underground, sonically and lyrically. Its legacy, then, was creating a world in which any topic was now permissible in music — and that illicit trip to score drugs made for a joyride. The experience of listening to Heroin is so compelling and excruciating that you want to be part of it as much as you want to help him. While the Beatles were singing that all you need is love, Reed was declaring that all he needed was drugs, and redefining how rock should sound in the process. Venus in Furs is startling in form and content. To soundtrack this tale of sadomasochism, the group put down a droning, noisy, and brutal sound that would go onto embody the Velvet Underground and Nico. With no overdubs on the production, the group revolutionised rock music through the pure onslaught of their playing.
It was recorded in while the band were featured on Andy Warhol 's Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour. The album features experimental performance sensibilities and controversial lyrical topics, including drug abuse , prostitution , sadomasochism and sexual deviancy. It sold poorly and was mostly ignored by contemporary critics, but later became regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music. Many subgenres of rock music and forms of alternative music were informed by the album, including art rock , punk , garage , shoegazing , goth , and indie. At the instigation of their mentor and manager Andy Warhol , and his collaborator Paul Morrissey , German singer Nico was also featured; she had occasionally performed lead vocals for the band.
The band was initially active between and , and was briefly managed by the pop artist Andy Warhol , serving as the house band at the Factory and Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable events from to The band's integration of rock and the avant-garde achieved little commercial success during its existence, but it is now recognized as one of the most influential bands in rock, underground , experimental , and alternative music. The foundations for what would become the Velvet Underground were laid in late Cale was pleasantly surprised to discover that Reed's experimentalist tendencies were similar to his own: Reed sometimes used alternative guitar tunings to create a droning sound. The pair rehearsed and performed together; their partnership and shared interests built the path towards what would later become the Velvet Underground.