The Velvet Underground is one of those bands that didn’t last nearly as long as they should have. They got their start after being noticed by Andy Warhol. The encounter led to him not only inviting them to play at his famous “Factory” and the creation of the iconic “banana” album cover, but both managing the band and acting as a producer for their albums.
Despite Warhol’s backing, they weren’t an immediate success. In fact, the band only became actually famous once they had already broken up. But despite their rough start, The Velvet Underground eventually became a legend – and these are some of their best songs.
Pale Blue Eyes
The song doesn’t follow a steady pace; it keeps going up and down, and for some reason, our body seems to resonate with it in a more than expected manner. But it’s also a song on the sad side, and somehow resembles happiness that can only be described as a kind of nostalgia.
The song leaves room for many interpretations, the first being the most obvious – the ups and downs of actual heroin. But more comes to mind: chaos, rebellion, and an attitude enough to jump-start a listener’s own personal revolution.
Recorded in the ’70s, the song brings the experience of a live concert right to your living room. This all-around fun track sounds like it was put together by a bunch of friends while casually jamming. Maybe that’s why it’s so good: it doesn’t seem forced or pretentious at all.
Through the lyrics, a listener can clearly hear imminent heartbreak, with a warning. The sound on the other hand seems to illustrate a certain excitement felt by the person being warned. It’s that head-in-the-cloud state where you’re finding so much happiness in the moment of the new relationship, that the heartbreaking future just seems too far away to matter.
Venus In Furs
The band loved to set a scene and tell a story while sharing controversial topics. In ‘”Venus in Furs,” they bring to listeners pure desire and BDSM in the lyrics, along with a trippy sonic vibe. It’s the kind of song that will want to make you dance like a hippie in the desert.
I’m Waiting For The Man
One of the most fast-paced songs on this list, the track tells a short-story of meeting up with a dealer on the streets of NYC, followed by the care-free sensation of being high: “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling oh so fine. Until tomorrow, but that’s just some other time”.
White Light/White Heat
It sounds like the perfect cabaret song at first. Then it throws all the rules out the window and generalized chaos ensues. The electric instruments truly go wild on this one; it’s important to keep in mind this came out in 1968 before Punk was born.
Lady Godiva’s Operation
This one is different from anything you could ever expect from the band. There’s a sense of longing in John Cale’s voice, and a certain urgency in Lou Reed’s. The song is extremely experimental, even for The Velvets, with everything from black humor to vocal noises made that sound like medical instruments. Once the song reaches its dark comedic turn, it becomes funny for the sake of it.
Train Round The Bend
I don’t think anyone saw a blues song coming from this band but they did it anyway. Being constantly unconventional is kind of their signature move.
The lyrics are about being bored to death in the countryside and wishing to be in the city — and you feel the country vibe clashing with the pulsating heartbeat of the city.
I’m Gonna Move Right In
The best way to describe this song is that one day, the band decided to prove they could have followed a different path. This path would involve going to bars a few nights a week to make some cash by jamming and showcasing their respective talents as players. Of course, this path would only work as a band because of how in sync they are with each other. This is the literal translation of how this might have played out.
Photo: The Velvet Underground (public domain)