The stories behind their softer side


There was nothing warm and fuzzy The Velvet Underground. When the airwaves were full of hymns to peace, love and San Francisco sunshine, this transgressive troupe prowled the gritty streets of the Lower East Side and haunted Andy Warhol’s factory in Hell’s Kitchen, digging into the decadence. Their songs about S&M, heroin addiction and racial tensions made the band the poison apple at the hippie Snow White event. So how did The Velvet Underground manage to create some of the finest ballads of the 60s between all the bad vibes and vice valentines? Let’s dig.

Listen to Velvet Underground ballads on Apple Music and Spotify.

Sunday morning

Exhibit A is the opening track from their 1967 debut album. But it was actually the last thing recorded for the record. For all producers Thomas Wilson, the business side of his brain told him the Velvets needed a radio song, so he brought up Lou Reed’s deceptively pretty ode to early morning paranoia. It was originally written for Nico’s harsh baritone, but Reed sang it instead, giving it a more laid-back feel, while John Cale’s heavenly, piano and viola overdubs made it the thing. closer to bedroom pop than the band would have ever delivered.

Fatal Woman

With Andy Warhol as their manager, the Velvets got to know the wild cast of characters that made up the artistic entrepreneur’s quirky sequel. Some of them inevitably inspired Lou Reed’s songwriting, including Candy Darling and Joe Dallesandro in “Walk on the Wild Side.” Edie Sedgwick, however, was Warhol’s “It” Girl, who appeared in a long line of his films. Her beauty went hand in hand with tragedy. Drug addiction claimed her life at age 28 in 1971. When Reed greeted her with “Femme Fatale”, Sedgwick was still on top. The lyrics ascribe an almost predatory quality to Sedgwick, but it’s offset by the smooth, bossa nova swinging guitars and the brilliant harmony of the call-and-response choirs. Nico brings just the right bittersweet touch to a melody that might as well have been written about him.

I will be your mirror

This one actually has been inspired by Nico, who gave her one of the most poignant vocal performances she had ever recorded. She allegedly said the title phrase to Reed in conversation and he took it from there. The beauty of Velvet Underground’s other ballads is contrasted with a soup of sadness, bitch or some type of tension, but “I’ll Be Your Mirror” is Reed’s statement of immaculate sweetness, all about a person who truly understands and accepts another with all their faults. It passes quickly, lasting just over two minutes, but it’s enough to offer a glimpse of Reed’s rarely seen flabby belly.

candy says

Before Reed put Candy Darling on “Walk on the Wild Side,” he dedicated this heartbreaking track to Warhol’s transgender actress. In the 60s, writing a compassionate portrait of someone struggling with gender identity was pretty impressive. Making it one of the most emotional moments ever recorded on tape is another thing altogether. Of course, the song has a wider appeal, with a message that can resonate with anyone who’s ever felt at odds with themselves. Reed handed lead vocal duties to new guy, bassist Doug Yule, whose place in history is secured by those fateful four minutes. On March 6, 2013, months before her death, Reed sang “Candy Says” at her final public performance, appropriately aided by fellow transgender artist Anohni. Coming from a sick and fragile reed, lines like “I’ve come to hate my body and everything it demands in this world” gave the song another layer of meaning.

pale blue eyes

This magnificent punch is a prime example of Reed’s gift for subversion. As part of what is ostensibly a simple love song, he drops some of his most powerful metaphysical poetry and adds a touch of adultery for good measure. Reed is said to have written the song about Shelley Albin, his girlfriend at Syracuse University, who was reportedly married at the time of its composition. To write a dragon-slaying verse like “If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see/I’d put you in the mirror I put before me” is to grab the copper ring of the artistic accomplishment. Falling into a tender love ballad and making it work is just genius territory. In his lyrics book, Between Thought and Expression, Reed added the following footnote to the song: “I wrote this for someone I’ve missed dearly. His eyes were hazel.

Listen to Velvet Underground ballads on Apple Music and Spotify.

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