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Music / The Velvet Underground (Album)

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I don't know just what it's all about. Put on your red pajamas and find out.

The Velvet Underground is the eponymous third studio album by The Velvet Underground, released in 1969 through MGM Records. 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 due to Creative Differences with frontman Lou Reed; 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, 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.


Side One
  1. "Candy Says" (4:04)
  2. "What Goes On" (4:55)
  3. "Some Kinda Love" (4:03)
  4. "Pale Blue Eyes" (5:41)
  5. "Jesus" (3:24)

Side Two

  1. "Beginning to See the Light" (4:41)
  2. "I'm Set Free" (4:08)
  3. "That's the Story of My Life" (1:59)
  4. "The Murder Mystery" (8:55)
  5. "After Hours" (2:07)

Principal Members:

  • 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".
  • Anti-Love Song: "Pale Blue Eyes"
    But mostly you just make me mad
    Baby, you just make me mad
    Linger 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 said
    Marguerita told Tom
    And, of course, you're a bore
    But at that you're not charm-less
    For a bore is a straight line
    That finds a wealth in division
    And some kinds of love
    Are 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".
  • Cover Version: Bryan Ferry covered "What Goes On", which also interpolated "Beginning to See the Light", for 1976's The Bride Stripped Bare.
  • The Cynic:
    • "I'm Set Free"
      And now I'm set free
      I'm set free
      I'm set free to find a new illusion
    • "That's the Story of My Life"
      That's the story of my life
      That's the difference between wrong and right
      But Billy said, both those words are dead
      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 dancing
    And they're having such fun
    I wish it could happen to me
  • Downer Ending: "After Hours" is a pretty dark ending to the album.
  • 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.
    • Complicating the matter is that, well, Reed was Jewish. This has led to a number of conflicting interpretations.
  • Gratuitous Panning: "The Murder Mystery", which has different vocals from different band members in each channel. Reed would later call this a failed experiment.
  • Hair of the Dog: "Beginning to See the Light":
    Wine in the morning, and some breakfast at night
  • 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".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Despite the incredibly dissonant lyrics, "After Hours" has a jaunty melody with an innocent vocal delivery from Tucker.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read:
    • "Candy Says"
      Candy says: "I'd like to know completely
      What others so discreetly talk about
    • "What Goes On"
      What goes on in your mind?
  • Miniscule Rocking: The 1:59 "That's the Story of My Life" and 2:07 "After Hours".
  • Mythology Gag: The album cover is a deliberate nod to the cover of White Light/White Heat immediately before it, featuring the band name in the exact same font and a similar position, again against a black backdrop, but with a photograph of the band in place of the skull tattoo.
  • 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".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: The Trope Codifiers at work. Notably, Reed's voice is even more perishing here than it usually is; a listener could be forgiven for thinking Yule sings lead vocals on tracks like "I'm Set Free" and "That's the Story of My Life".
  • Properly Paranoid: "Candy Says"
    Candy says: "I'd like to know completely
    What 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.
  • Self-Titled Album: The Velvet Underground.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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 lead vocals on "After Hours". Bass player Doug Yule performs the lead vocals on "Candy Says" and co-lead vocals on the choruses of "Jesus". All four band members perform lead vocals on "The Murder Mystery" (Morrison and Reed during the verses, which are spoken-word; Yule and Tucker during the choruses, which are sung). This is Morrison's only lead vocal credit on a Velvet Underground album, though he did provide backing vocals quite often.
  • 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.
    • Around two-thirds of the album qualified by the band's standards at the time. There are a few rockers such as "What Goes On", "Beginning to See the Light", and "The Murder Mystery", but by the standards of a band known for experiments like the viola freakout of "The Black Angel's Death Song" and the seventeen-and-a-half-minute noise jam "Sister Ray", the meditative ballads that make up the majority of this album were a major sonic departure.
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • "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":
      I don't know just what it's all about
      Put on your red pyjamas and find out