Music: White Light/White Heat

White Light/White Heat.

White Light/White Heat is the second studio album by Velvet Underground, released in 1968. Less iconic than their previous effort, The Velvet Underground And Nico but equally revered as a groundbreaking record.

The album was recorded after Nico and Andy Warhol had left their involvement within the band. Tensions grew as Lou Reed and John Cale now fought each other to get control over the finished product. The end result is a very chaotic, yet intriguing album and the final one on which Cale was involved in.


Side One

  1. "White Light/White Heat" (2:47)
  2. "The Gift" (8:18)
  3. "Lady Godiva's Operation" (4:56)
  4. "Here She Comes Now" (2:04)

Side Two

  1. "I Heard Her Call My Name" (4:38)
  2. "Sister Ray" (17:28)

Principal Members:

  • John Cale - viola, bass, backing and lead vocals, organ, sound effects
  • Sterling Morrison - guitar, bass, vocals, sound effects
  • Lou Reed - lead vocals, guitar, piano
  • Maureen Tucker - drums, percussion

White tropes going messing up my mind:

  • Album Title Drop: The first thing you hear on the first track of the album: "White Light/White Heat".
  • Anorgasmia: The track "Here She Comes Now" has been interpreted being about this topic.
  • Bald Women: Lady Godiva (who is actually a transvestite) is shaved bald on the operation table in "Lady Godiva's Operation".
  • Big Word Shout: Certain words in "Lady Godiva's Operation" are emphasized by another speaker other than Cale.
  • Black Comedy: White Light/White Heat is famous for showing the band's twisted sense of humour, as shown in "The Gift", "Lady Godiva's Operation" and "Sister Ray".
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Lady Godiva's Operation".
  • Call Back:
    • "Here She Comes Now" seems to call back to the end of the song "White Light/White Heat",where this line can be heard:
    Hmm hmm, white light/here she comes/here she comes/everybody get 'n' gone/make me run to her.
    • "Lady Godiva's Operation" mentions Godiva's body "withering and writhing underneath the white light" in a call back to the title track.
  • Comedic Sociopathy/Comically Missing the Point: In "Sister Ray", when Cecil shoots the sailor, the narrator's only reaction is "Oh, you shouldn't do that/Don't you know you'll stain the carpet/Now don't you know you'll mess the carpet."
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite being called "White Light/White Heat" the album cover is entirely black.
  • Cover Version: David Bowie covered the title track several times.
    • Nirvana covered "Here She Comes Now".
  • Creepy Monotone: Cale's reading of "The Gift".
  • Darker and Edgier: This album even surpasses The Velvet Underground And Nico" (1967) in disturbing subject matter.
  • Double Entendre: "White Light/White Heat" is a non-sexual example. The song's inspiration by amphetamines is by now well known, but its inspiration by Alice Bailey's occult book A Treatise on White Magic, which advises control of the astral body by a "direct method of relaxation, concentration, stillness and flushing the entire personality with pure White Light, with instructions on how to 'call down a stream of pure White Light'", is less so. Reed is known to have endorsed it in a 1969 interview, and he is also known to have been fond of the idea of writing songs that could be interpreted in multiple ways. Allmusic writer Richie Unterberger has more here.
    • "Here She Comes Now" might be about a female orgasm that's yet (or not) to come.
  • Downer Ending: "The Gift" and "Lady Godiva's Operation" both end fatally.
  • Epic Rocking: "Sister Ray", if you could call it "rocking" anymore...
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Reed singing about someone "sucking his ding-dong" only ended up on the album because the producer refused to listen to the recording.
  • Guy In A Box: "The Gift" shows us why it's a bad idea.
  • Gratuitous Panning: "The Gift", which is basically Cale reciting one of Reed's short stories over a rock instrumental track.
  • Gross Out Show: "Lady Godiva's Operation" about a botched operation of a transvestige.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The second guitar solo of "I Heard Her Call My Name" intentionally invokes this.
    Lou Reed: And then my mind split open! *shriek of feedback*
  • Hello, Sailor!: Transvestites pick up sailors in "Sister Ray".
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: On first inspection the album cover appears to be entirely black, but actually a small skull tattoo can be made out amidst the blackness.
  • Human Mail: "The Gift" explores this.
  • Intercourse with You: Reeds' repeated line "she's sucking on my ding dong" in "Sister Ray", which in itself is about some transsexuals picking up some sailors.
  • Law of Disproportionate Response: After the prostitute in "Sister Ray" is shot down Reed's only response is: Aw, you shouldn't do that/ Don't you know you'll stain the carpet?
  • Lobotomy: Lady Godiva gets one in "Lady Godiva's Operation".
  • Love Martyr: Waldo in "The Gift". Could count as a Stalker with a Crush as well.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "The Gift" is read in Cale's deadpan voice, but is actually a very disturbing tale.
  • Mind Screw: "Lady Godiva's Operation", where an operation of a transvestite goes completely wrong.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: A blacker-than-black cover with white text and a faintly embossed picture of a tattoo.
  • New Sound Album: Still to this day!
  • Obsession Song: Waldo in "The Gift" who wants to impress his girlfriend by mailing himself to her in a package
  • Police Brutality: The police burst in and shoot a prostitute in "Sister Ray".
  • Record Producer: Tom Wilson.
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: Happens a few times during "Sister Ray", because they had planned only one take and weren't sure if everything could be made out on the tape afterwards.
  • Say My Name: "I Heard Her Call My Name".
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Almost literally what the group's producer said before the band decided to record '"Sister Ray"':
    Lou Reed: The engineer said, "I don't have to listen to this. I'll put it in record, and then I'm leaving. When you're done, come get me."
  • Shaggy Dog Story: "The Gift" (guy mails himself to girlfriend, gets killed), "Sister Ray" (huge debauched party, someone gets shot), "Lady Godiva's Operation" (transsexual goes to have some operation, gets a botched lobotomy from a sloppy doctor and dies).
  • Shout-Out: "Sister Ray" is named after Ray Davies.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Cale reciting "The Gift".
  • Transsexual: "Lady Godiva's Operation" has one ready for operation
  • Transvestite: "Sister Ray".
    Lou Reed:'Sister Ray' was done as a joke— no, not as a joke — but it has eight characters in it and this guy gets killed and nobody does anything. It was built around this story that I wrote about this scene of total debauchery and decay. I like to think of 'Sister Ray' as a transvestite smack dealer. The situation is a bunch of drag queens taking some sailors home with them, shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear."
  • Twist Ending: "The Gift" ends with one.
  • The Unintelligible: It's difficult to hear what people are singing in "Sister Ray", because the noise drowns everything out.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Ding-Dong" for penis in "Sister Ray".
  • Verbal Tic: Reed repeats the same word twice in "Sister Ray": Oh, no man, I haven't got the time-time."