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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 10. 24 May 1972

The Velvet Underground and Nico

The Velvet Underground and Nico.

1965, Andy Warhol found himself a rock group and put them into The Exploding Plastic Inevitable (the first rock show with music, films, lights and audience in one overwhelming total environment). The group was Velvet Underground and they came right from Warhol's N.Y. underworld of hard drugs, sexual perversion (?) and a concern with death and violence that they lived and played. Their first L.P. was released in March 1967, and it's been released for us again on Verve label.

The record dawns with the easy lyricism of 'Sunday Morning', but the easy peacefulness of the music is counterpointed by an insistent warning: 'Watch out! The world's behind you!' The world soon catches up and breaks into the heavies that make up the rest of the album. 'I'm Waiting for My Man' is a guy waiting for his pickup. The insistent throbbing powerhouse of sound rides on behind the incredible, flat voice of Lou Reed. The lyrics of 'Venus in Furs' are concerned with pure sado-masochism . . . . and the music beneath is strained, and real mean. Possible the best track is 'Heroin' No bullshitting with double-meanings here:

'Cos it makes me feel like I'm a man
when I put a spike into my vein.'
'Heroin will be the death of me.
Heroin - it's my wife and it's my life.'

The music is brilliant, and helluva powerful in its effect A continual hypnotic drone on electric viola (John Cale) with the sound slowly building into high waves of sound, that fall again into irresolution until the final build-up to the psychosis of screaming feedback. Man, its really strong.

The electric viola becomes a death's-head in 'The Black Angels' Death Song', screaming as if Durers apocalyptic horsemen were riding through the sky. This song is black and mean, and it does evoke His Satanic Majesty.

The last track is 'European Son' which is 7 minutes of mind-exploding frenzy. As with the whole record, you have to listen to it Full Volume. It's hard, its heavy, and to quote one critic: 'It's not for the kiddies!' Nico is the superstar-blonde-bombshell-neo-Marlene-Dietrich-out-of-Mary-Travers who sang with the group during their E.P.I. tours. She sings two tracks on this L.P., but she just didn't catch me.

My only objection is to the cover. Somehow an inappropriate cover has a habit of getting in the way of the music. This one is too straight! and plastic and neat white borders. Apparently the first sleeve was a large Warhol banana.

Wish I'd heard this back in '67. It was helluva progressive and God! it's good music.

— Rex Halliday