NICO: "When you think the night has seen your mind The Velvet Underground & Nico
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
Because I see you"
—The Velvet Underground, "I'll Be Your Mirror"
is the debut studio album by Velvet Underground
, released in 1967. It is one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Together with Frank Zappa
's Freak Out
(1966) it's often considered to be the first underground rock album. Also a Cult Classic
, since it didn't sell well upon its original release, but did become one of the best known rock albums in history.
The Album Cover is equally famous: a huge banana, designed by Andy Warhol
. On the original record cover the yellow skin could be peeled off. This was later nodded to in the title of their box set Peel Slowly and See
, which featured the same artwork and peelable skin.
The Velvet Underground usually gets the praise they deserve, but Nico
's contribution to this album is sometimes overlooked. Especially since she only sang three songs on the album and didn't appear on their other albums.
- "Sunday Morning"
- "I'm Waiting For The Man"
- "Femme Fatale"
- "Venus In Furs"
- "Run Run Run"
- "All Tomorrow's Parties"
- "There She Goes Again"
- "I'll Be Your Mirror"
- "The Black Angel's Death Song"
- "European Son"
- John Cale - viola, piano, bass, vocals, celesta
- Sterling Morrison - guitar, bass, vocals
- Nico - lead vocals
- Lou Reed - lead vocals, guitar
- Maureen Tucker - drums, percussion
"And what trope shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow's parties?":
- Being Watched: "Sunday Morning":
Watch out the world's behind you/ there's always someone around you who will call.
- The Big Rotten Apple: "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Run Run Run".
- The Chanteuse: How Warhol named Nico to avoid the band from thinking that he was actually adding a female front singer to the group. (Which he, in a sense, did.)
- Corpsing: Lou Reed can be heard cracking up on the last verse of "Heroin".
- Cover Version: Most of the songs have been covered by other artists.
- Creepy Monotone: Nico's voice.
- Darker and Edgier: The Velvet Underground's debut album featured songs about sado-masochism, drugs and sounds that most listeners would call gratuitous noise. Back in 1967, there weren't many rock groups like them.
- "Days of the Week" Song : "Sunday Morning".
- Dedication: "European Son", to the writer Delmore Schwartz, who had been one of Lou Reed's college professors. (Reed's solo song "My House" memorialised Schwartz.)
- Death Seeker: The narrator of "Heroin" and the one in "The Black Angel Death Song".
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover was designed by Andy Warhol and his artists at the Factory. On the original LP the banana could be peeled too.
- Drone of Dread: A staple of several songs.
- Drugs Are Bad: "Run Run Run", "Heroin" and "I'm Waiting For The Man", though not all listeners got the message. Lou Reed was horrified whenever fans told him that they took their first shot of heroin while listening to "Heroin".
- Erotic Eating: The risqué lyrics make it tempting to interpret the banana on the cover as a phallic image. It doesn't help that anyone who manages to "PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE" would see that the banana is a fleshy pink colour.
- Everything Is an Instrument: That ungodly noise that kicks off the instrumental portion of "European Son" is John Cale pushing a metal chair with a stack of plates on it across the studio.
- Femme Fatale: "Femme Fatale".
- Gainax Ending: The album ends with a mad free jazz section.
- Genre Roulette: Gregorian Chants ("All Tomorrow's Parties"), Eastern drones ("Venus In Furs", "Heroin"), lullabies ("Sunday Morning"), pop ballads ("Femme Fatale", "I'll Be Your Mirror"), free jazz ("European Son"), Motown ("There She Goes Again"), your basic Rock 'n Roll ("I'm Waiting For The Man", "Run Run Run") and an avant-garde flamenco tune ("Black Angel's Death Song").
- Hemo Erotic: The sado masochistic song "Venus in Furs" closes with Lou Reed droning: "Now bleeeeeeed for me!"
- Larynx Dissonance: That female voice you hear in "Sunday Morning"? Well, it's not a woman, it's just Lou Reed putting on an incredibly convincing female voice! Many listeners have been fooled into thinking it's Nico, though if you compare it to her other tracks on the album you immediately notice the difference.
- Lecherous Licking: "Venus in Furs".
Kiss the boot / of shiny, shiny leather
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (no, seriously), which has no less than three different mixes of the album, along with Nico's first solo album, plus an entire concert.
- Literary Allusion Title / Filk Song: "Venus In Furs" is based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novella of the same title.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: A banana.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: The title of the album deliberately separating Nico from the rest of the band could come off as this, although it's accurate as she wasn't actually a member of the band.
- Noise Rock: "European Son" is the prototype.
- Non-Appearing Title: Seeing this is a Self-Titled Album the title never appears in any of the lyrics.
- Nothing Left to Do but Die: What the Black Angel of Death seems to advise in "The Black Angel's Death Song".
- The Not Remix: Several times over - for instance, the first CD issue had an alternate mix of "All Tomorrow's Parties", and with all the various remasters, re-releases and luxury editions the album has seen, you can pretty much be a collector of this one album.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Venus In Furs". Potentially the originator of this trope, as they were one of the first bands to write and record songs of this nature.
- One Woman Song: "Femme Fatale".
- Or generally, all the songs where Nico sings the lead.
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Pioneers!
- Post-Rock: "Heroin" is often said to be the song that started this trend off.
- Rip Van Winkle: "Venus In Furs"
I'm tired/ I'm weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
- Self-Titled Album: Just the name of the band and their guest.
- Shout-Out: "Venus in Furs" is a reference to the eponymous novel Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
- Single Stanza Song: "European Son".
- The Something Song: "Black Angel's Death Song".
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "I'll Be Your Mirror", which sounds really innocent between those other songs about sex and drugs.
- Unusual Euphemism: Warhol called Nico a "chanteuse" when he introduced her to the Velvet Underground so that the band wouldn't have the impression he was actually adding a new front singer to the group.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Black Angel's Death Song", deliberately by Reed.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: "I'll Be Your Mirror".