by John O'Malley
It is quite the daunting task to make an argument for the best Velvet Underground songs. They had a very small catalog of albums, only four major releases, and most of the songs are absolute gems.
Though everyone in the world has an opinion on this matter, I have an interesting take on the opinion at hand. I'm not sure how many people discover new music that they fall in love with. Maybe, a friend hands you a CD and it immediately connects with you.
I had just started listening to music when I first heard the Velvet Underground at seventeen years old. As of yet, I did not really break into any great, uncharted territory. "The Doors" was the only band I listened to at the time.
However, being at my sister's one night changed my life forever. We were drunkenly sitting in her living room, sipping Whiskey, when she popped out some vinyl and stumbled over to the record player.
As the static transformed in "Sunday Morning," the very first song off of "The Velvet Underground and Nico," I was immediately transported to a time and place I have never known.
This song is such an interesting choice for the first cut on the album, as they have very few songs that even remotely sound like it.
In addition, whereas the rest of the album has such a biting and droning tone, "Sunday Morning" has one of the most calming effects I have ever heard. However, it is the next song on the album that I believe is the best Velvet Underground song.
After the calm and surreal experience of the first track, we are thrown head first into the fire that became the VU's trademark sound. "Waiting For The Man" showed that this was not just another cookie cutter band from the 60's.
This was something completely unique and different from anything anyone had experienced. The song's raunchy lyrics about waiting for drug dealers in dangerous New York immediately distinguished the band from anything that was going on at the time.
Even the song's arrangement of driving, distorted instruments was something the musical landscape had not witnessed yet. This is the reason why many people attribute the Velvet Underground as the first punk rock band.
The final song I believe is one of the best Velvet Underground songs is "The Gift." No one has ever come close to emulating this song. It is more of a musical story than a song.
The music sounds mostly improvised and is accompanied by John Cale, the bassist and viola player, relating a tale about a man and a woman having relationship problems.
This song showed that this band was full of musicians who not only understood music theory quite well, but could also articulate full stories that were equally interesting and haunting.
I have only covered the tip of the iceberg, but I hope I gave you a glimpse into why this band is so important to me.
John O'Malley wrote this article about the Velvet Underground and has been writing about music for 15 years. If you like the Velvet Underground, he thinks you will enjoy The Next New Nothings.
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