Almost 53 years ago The Velvet Underground released its first album, The Velvet Underground And Nico, an incredibly influential album that created an expansion in music’s creativity and realism. Although it had a limited appeal when it was released, it would later strike the interests of many bands, artists, and people.
Initially only selling 30,000 copies in the first five years of release, the band was put together in 1964 in New York and produced by famous pop artist Andy Warhol through the record label Verve Records. The intention for the band was to purely focus on creativity rather than fitting the mainstream tunes of the late 60’s. Most of the known music at the time was made by bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, and The Beach Boys. These groups of the late ’60s sang light-hearted topics about love, peace, and happiness through their soft vocals, lyrics, and high-quality production whereas The Velvet Underground And Nico lead singers Loud Reed and Nico incorporated lyrics about taboo topics, rough vocals, and poor production.
The album includes a mix of soft vocalism and upbeat tunes and switches from track to track with conflicting topics performed with distortion and rough vocals spoken in a poetic matter. The Velvet Underground And Nico were truly ahead of their time showing no fear in their individualistic ways of conveying stories about the dark reality in the world as well as focusing on experimenting with their sound rather than pleasing the industry. The album begins with the track Sunday Morning. The song encaptures a soft pop feel with slightly dark lyrics building up to the next track, I’m Waiting For The Man, a song about a man waiting for his drug dealer. From just the first two tracks it already shows conflicting moral values and opinions. These unrepresented ideas hide in the depths of underground music until nearly two decades later. The rest of the album’s track, Femme Fatale, Venus in Furs, Run Run Run, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Heroin, There She Goes Again, I’ll Be Your Mirror, The Black Angel’s Death Song and European Son, go on to discuss many explicit topics with a range of drugs, sexuality, stupidity, and ugliness within the world.
All this being said, many would agree that this album had created the opening for genres such as punk rock, alternative rock, art rock, new wave, and noise rock, that incorporate the features that The Velvet Underground And Nico originally presented. These included distortion, lyrical realism and singing about issues in the modern world.
Guitarist of The Vaccines Freddie Cowan mentioned: “The whole thing is this aggressive, deadpan perfection. It is an adult rock & roll: brutal and not dumbed down. The influence remains because of the whole approach and attitude. If you write about what you know and do things as if you really… believe it, you can’t go wrong.”
Through time The Velvet Underground And Nico strange sound and lyrics latched on to influence the newer genres of rock music. It gave musicians the opportunity to come to the realization that lyrical authenticity and exploration of sound can become an additional idea in the creative process. This process could then create a form of music based on reality rather than common mainstream made up of simplistic catchy melodies, soft vocals, and lyrics known to be easily deceivable.