Music: The Velvet Underground And Nico

NICO: "When you think the night has seen your mind
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"

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut studio album by Velvet Underground and Nico, released in 1967. It is one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Together with Frank Zappa's Freak Out from 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 peel-able 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.

In 2006 The Velvet Underground & Nico was included in Time Magazine's list of 100 timeless and essential albums, as well as inducted in the National Recording Registry for being "historically, culturally and aethestically significant." It was also listed at #13 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. A Big Name Fan was influential British radio DJ John Peel who, in 1997, placed it at no. 2 in a list of his 20 personal favourite albums note  when asked by the newspaper The Guardian.


Side One

  1. "Sunday Morning" (2:54)
  2. "I'm Waiting For The Man" (4:39)
  3. "Femme Fatale" (2:38)
  4. "Venus In Furs" (5:12)
  5. "Run Run Run" (4:22)
  6. "All Tomorrow's Parties" (6:00)

Side Two

  1. "Heroin" (7:12)
  2. "There She Goes Again" (2:41)
  3. "I'll Be Your Mirror" (2:14)
  4. "The Black Angel's Death Song" (3:11)
  5. "European Son" (7:46)

Principal Members:

  • 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?":

  • Alliterative Title: "Femme Fatale", "Run Run Run".
  • Being Watched: "Sunday Morning":
    Watch out, the world's behind you / there's always someone around you who will call / It's nothing at all.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Run Run Run", both show a not so pretty sight of New York's night life.
  • 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.
  • Crossover: Between The Velvet Underground and singer Nico, for whom it was both their debut album.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Velvet Underground's debut album featured songs about sadomasochism, 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".
    Sunday morning, praise the dawning
    It's just a restless feeling by my side
    Early dawning
    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 (Be The Death Of Me)" 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, especially "European Son" near the end.
  • 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".
    Cause everybody knows
    (She's a femme fatale)
  • Gainax Ending: The album ends with a mad free jazz section.
  • Genre Roulette: 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").
  • Hell Is That Noise: The loud hissing from "The Black Angel's Death Song" is rather startling when you first hear it, especially since it's higher in the mix than the other instruments.
  • 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.
  • New Sound Album: Both instrumentally and lyrically this album was quite unique when it came out: experimental rock; songs about heroin, male prostitution and sado-masochistic sex; weird instruments like the viola and to top it all off: Nico's bizarre Creepy Monotone singing.
  • 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 Man Song: "European Son".
  • One Woman Song: "Femme Fatale".
    • Or generally, all the songs where Nico sings the lead.
  • Pep Talk Song: "I'll Be Your Mirror", where Nico offers to be "your mirror", "your eyes" and "your hand in the darkness, so you won't be afraid."
  • Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Pioneers!
  • Post-Rock: "Heroin" is often said to be the song that started this trend off.
  • Record Producer: Andy Warhol. Although credited as producer, his influence primarily seems to have been just to pay for the recording, the actual production work was done by Tom Wilson and the band themselves. Lou Reed acknowledged that Andy's pedigree allowed them to get away with a lot for their debut that might have otherwise been lost in executive meddling.
  • 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.
    • "Hotellounge (Be The Death Of Me)" from dEUS album Worst Case Scenario (1994) is a title shout-out to "Heroin (Be The Death Of Me)".
  • 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".
    I find it hard to believe you don't know
    The beauty that you are
    But if you don't, let me be your eyes
    A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid
  • Your Cheating Heart: "There She Goes Again".