The Legacy of the Velvet Underground & Nico

velvet-underground-rare-photo-from-1967.jpg The Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Green Day, the Clash, the Misfits, the Arctic Monkeys – these are just a few of the great punk rock bands (yes, the Artic Monkeys were a punk-influenced band early on). These bands challenged the conceptions of rock in their day, channeling a destructive and even reckless attitude into their music and performances, playing music that, while simple, was loud and hard, and personified the angst and rebelliousness of teen-aged youth.

These bands would not exist if it weren't for the Velvet Underground.

The experimental avant-garde rock band formed in 1964 and, while they would never see any serious attention or success during their original run, they would soon become recognized as one of the most influential artists in popular music history, right up there next to the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Miles Davis. The Velvet Underground was the first band to experiment heavily in drones, ridiculous amounts of distortion, and sounds that would later become known as “noise rock”. They were the first band to sing openly about topics like drug abuse, prostitution, and sexual deviancy. Their first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, deals broadly with these subjects. Songs like “Heroin” and “Venus in Furs” are altogether depressing, entrancing, and beautiful – in a very strange and almost repulsive way.

The album was recorded throughout 1966, at the same time that the Beatles' Revolver and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds were being recorded. The album showcased a totally raw sound that had never been heard before in music. The Velvet Underground challenged everyone's belief in what “rock” and even plain “music” should be. The Velvet Underground & Nico essentially created a new genre, punk, out of thin air.

A bonus song: the seventeen minute “Sister Ray” from their second album, White Light/White Heat.

And while the album failed to see much or any success in its day, its effect on music can be summed up by musician and producer Brian Eno: even though it only sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band”.

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