Project “Christmas Dinner” is officially a go and to keep us company we are listening to one of HRH‘s Christmas gifts, the ‘Velvet Underground & Nico‘ album by the Velvet Underground.
Or, as HRH calls it: “The Banana Record”.
It’s true, the fourth of our official new Christmas albums today is. well, something rather different as you might expect. After all, one does not necessarily decide to go all “Heroine Chic” on Christmas Day…or do they?
Yes, that’s pretty much it.
HRH wanted the “Banana Record” and, hey, I dig the 1960’s New York druggie music*.
Talk about your classic “win-win”.
While HRH originally chose this album because the cover called to her, one would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as this album.
In other words, “Wise choice, young grasshopper”.
While it reportedly took over a decade for the album’s sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While the band had as distinctive a sound as any band, what’s most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvet’s dipped their toes into dreamy pop (‘Sunday Morning’), tough garage rock ‘Waiting for the Man‘), stripped-down R&B (‘There She Goes Again‘), and understated love songs (‘I’ll Be Your Mirror‘) when they weren’t busy creating sounds without pop precedent.
Lou Reed‘s lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone “teen music” – I’m still a good step-dad though, right?) always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of ‘European Son‘, the troubling beauty of ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties‘, and the expressive dynamics of ‘Heroin‘ all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded.
While the significance of Nico’s contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band’s outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol’s presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico‘, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks.
I’m definitely not going to complain seeing as though it is listed at #9 in my all-haloed Bible (Mojo, August 1995) list of the greatest albums ever made, not to mention also being a high-ranking album on my own personal Dessert Island to boot. On HRH‘s end, it represents Day 1 of the “31 Day Record Challenge” I gave her for a creative stocking stuffer, ‘A new record you got for Christmas…’
So put that in your Christmas pipe and smoke it.