Nite Life Midnight Album Feature – The Velvet Underground


Every Friday night at 12:00, I play one of my favorite albums and bring you the tracks and background on that album.

Last week’s feature is the Velvet Underground’s third album. It’s a self-titled release just called The Velvet Underground and it was released in 1969.

The Velvet Underground was a New York band who hugely influenced punk rock and are credited with being the first alternative rock band ever. They were formed in 1965 by the original members Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker. They later worked and recorded with chanteuse Nico. In their early years were closely associated with Andy Warhol, the great artist, and The Factory, Warhol’s studio, where a variety of people created art, made films, and performed music. So there was this integration with art along with the music and Andy Warhol was a marketing master along with being an artistic genius. He brought in Nico at one point, she was a famous fashion model and that just rocketed the noteriety of the band. This album is so much softer and more reflective than their other work. By the time this was released in 1969 John Cale had already left the band. He liked more atonal sounds and Lou Reed was able to do something a bit more melodic after Cale left. Cale was replaced by Doug Yule.

The album’s sound is a departure from their first two, which were harder and more experimental. This LP has a real spacious feel to it. I’m going to give you a range of styles that show up on the record, starting with “Pale Blue Eyes,” one of the ballads. Lou Reed wrote most of the band’s songs. He was so literate, he’s almost like an author the way he writes his lyrics. I came across this album when I had finished college at UC Berkeley and I moved home for two years to live in my parents’ crumbling basement (so I could afford to pay off my student loans and then travel.) It was not an especially easy time for me. There was something about this album that really kept me going. It’s really sensitive and it has these reflective melancholy songs but it also has these really bright, hopeful tracks. I got my first serious job working at a psychiatric hospital for emotionally disturbed children aged between 3 and 13. I was spending lot time writing myself. I felt very connected with Reed’s way of writing. The happier songs, like “I’m Beginning to See the Light” especially, really kept me on track.

velvetundergroundFriday, June 9, 2007

“The Velvet Underground” goes from really slow, sensitive songs to more rocking numbers that have a hopeful feel and are kind of questioning, and then there are the spooky songs. This album has become intricately connected with the time of my life when I heard it most. As a 22 year-old graduate I was pretty fascinated and also tripped out by the scene in the psych hospital. It was a really strange shot of reality after college. I think that the last two songs on the album wrap up my experience of how I dealt with that job and living in my hometown. “Murder Mystery” is very trippy and weird. There’s this three-dimensional insanity that Lou Reed is so good at portraying by using stereo effects and all kinds of unexpected noises. The last song, “After Hours,” is very very innocent. These two songs meant a lot to me. They were a parallel to my experience in my job at the time. They especially correlate to the fact that I had to deal with the parents of kids who were abused. In order to deal with the reality of the abuse circle, I thought of the parents as big kids themselves. Then I could relate to them and try to help them. This music somehow made it happen.

Every Friday night at 12 o’clock it’s the “Midnight Album Feature”. DJ Michele brings you tracks and history from a disc in her personal collection.

This week it’s Symptomatic of a Greater Ill, the 2006 gritty-yet-zen, classic-yet-edgy hip-hop release from New York duo Darc Mind.

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One Comment

  1. rob
    Posted June 13, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    wow, that was a really cool and inspiring post. Thanks Michelle!

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