The Velvet Underground is the third studio album by Velvet Underground, released in 1969. It is their first album without founding member John Cale, who chose to leave the band after White Light/White Heat from the previous year; it is also their last studio album to feature Maureen Tucker, as due to her pregnancy, she was unable to appear on Loaded from the following year. This album is the first featuring Cale's replacement Doug Yule, who would take over the band in the future.
With his main rival within the band now gone, Lou Reed was able to make his own ideas and tastes more dominant. The result was a less Avant Garde Music sound compared to their previous two albums The Velvet Underground & Nico from 1967 and White Light/White Heat. Most of the songs are straightforward rock songs such as "Candy Says", "What Goes On" and "Pale Blue Eyes", which remained audience favourites over the years.
- "Candy Says" (4:04)
- "What Goes On" (4:55)
- "Some Kinda Love" (4:03)
- "Pale Blue Eyes" (5:41)
- "Jesus" (3:24)
- "Beginning to See the Light" (4:41)
- "I'm Set Free" (4:08)
- "That's the Story of My Life" (1:59)
- "The Murder Mystery" (8:55)
- "After Hours" (2:07)
- Sterling Morrison - guitar, backing and co-lead vocals
- Lou Reed - lead vocals, guitar, piano
- Maureen Tucker - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals
- Doug Yule - bass, backing and lead vocals, organ
Linger on your pale blue tropes:
- Alliterative Title: "The Murder Mystery".
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read:
Candy says: "I'd like to know completelyWhat others so discreetly talk about.
- "Candy Says"
What goes on in your mind?
- "What Goes On"
- Anti-Love Song: "Pale Blue Eyes"But mostly you just make me madBaby, you just make me madLinger on, your pale blue eyes
- Avant Garde Music: "The Murder Mystery" is the sole track that fits this genre.
- Black and White Morality: A huge theme on the album. In "That's the Story of My Life" the difference between wrong and right is said to be "dead". In "Beginning to See the Light" Reed asks: "Here comes two of you, which one will you choose? One is black, one is blue. Don't know just what to do?" and in "Jesus" he asks Jesus to help him.
- Boring, but Practical: "Some Kinda Love"I heard what you saidMarguerita told TomAnd, of course, you're a boreBut at that you're not charm-lessFor a bore is a straight lineThat finds a wealth in divisionAnd some kinds of loveAre mistaken for vision
- Continuity Nod: "Candy Says" would receive a Call-Back with "Caroline Says Part II" on Berlin by Lou Reed.
- Counting to Three: Tucker does this at the start of "After Hours".
- The Cynic:
And now I'm set freeI'm set freeI'm set free to find a new illusion
- "I'm Set Free"
That's the story of my lifeThat's the difference between wrong and rightBut Billy said, both those words are deadThat's the story of my life.
- "That's the Story of My Life"
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black and white.
- Despair Event Horizon: "After Hours"All the people are dancingAnd they're having such funI wish it could happen to me
- Epic Rocking: The 8:55 "The Murder Mystery".
- Epiphany Therapy: "Beginning to See the Light".Yeah, I'm beginning to see the light
- Face on the Cover: This was the first album to feature the band members on the cover. Features a hilariously clean-cut Lou Reed.
- God-Is-Love Songs: "Jesus", a song where Reed asks the Messiah for salvation.
- Gratuitous Panning: "The Murder Mystery", which has different vocals from different band members in each channel. Reed would later call this a failed experiment.
- Innocent Blue Eyes: Subverted in "Pale Blue Eyes". The mellow and soothing music leads one to think that this trope is in play, and from the lyrics you can tell that the narrator wants to believe this—but he can't, because the relationship can't last, because she's cheating on her husband with him.
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to their last two albums this record is much more minimalist and intimate. The only real Avant Garde Music track is "The Murder Mystery".
- Miniscule Rocking: The 1:59 "That's the Story of My Life" and 2:07 "After Hours".
- New Sound Album: Compared to their earlier albums they are almost unrecognizable, save for "The Murder Mystery".
- Non-Appearing Title: The album title does not appear in any of the lyrics.
- One Dialogue, Two Conversations: "The Murder Mystery" features all four band members' voices. During the verses, Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison each recite different verses of poetry simultaneously, with each track panning strictly to the left and right. For the choruses, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule sing different lyrics and melodies at the same time, also separated left and right.
- One-Man Song: "Jesus".
- One-Woman Song: "Candy Says".
- Properly Paranoid: "Candy Says"Candy says: "I'd like to know completelyWhat others so discreetly talk about.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Candy Says" was about Andy Warhol model Candy Darling, who would later be referenced again in Reed's song "Walk on the Wild Side" from Transformer.
- An instrumental version of "Pale Blue Eyes" was used in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.
- "Some Kinda Love" inspired the dEUS song "What We Talk About (When We Talk About Love)" from Pocket Revolution (2005).
- The distorted organ sound heard at the end of Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" from the Remain in Light album (1980) was inspired by "What Goes On".
- Self-Titled Album: The Velvet Underground.
- Spoken Word in Music: "The Murder Mystery" alternates Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison speaking in one channel with Doug Yule and Moe Tucker singing in the other.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker sings "After Hours" and provides backing vocals on "The Murder Mystery". Bass player Doug Yule performs the lead vocals on "Candy Says".
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "After Hours", much thanks to Maureen "Moe" Tucker's vocal delivery. Reed admitted that he gave it to her on purpose because if he'd sung it, it wouldn't have sounded as innocent.
- Transgender: "Candy Says" was written with Andy Warhol protégé Candy Darling in mind.
- Word Salad Lyrics:
I don't know just what it's all about.Put on your red pyjamas and find out.
- "The Murder Mystery" consists mostly of a series of nonsensical words and phrases, most of them spoken by different people at the same time.
- Many lyrics are difficult to decipher at first. This is lampshaded in "Some Kinda Love"