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YMMV / Velvet Underground

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  • Americans Hate Tingle: It's a widely-circulated myth that West Coast hippies hated the band for its dark songs. Contrary to this perception, much of the officially-released live material is sourced from San Francisco. The audience response is warm, with fans calling out favorite songs, hardly the hostile reaction that you might have expected otherwise.
  • Awesome Music: Pretty much all of their albums. Except Squeeze. There's a reason why they're one of the most influential bands of all time.
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: Songs about drugs and sadomasochism at ear-splitting volume? Most music fans in the '60s were terrified of the band.
    • Even within their canon, "Sister Ray", a seventeen-and-a-half-minute noise-rock freakout, counts. The engineer infamously left the studio during the recording, reportedly saying (per Reed's retelling), "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."
  • Briefer Than They Think: For all the acclaim the Velvet Underground gets, and for just how influential they were on popular music, many people are surprised to find out the band lasted just nine years, the final three of which were spent as the Velvet Underground In Name Only.
  • Broken Base:
    • Some fans just can't stand Nico's voice, but opinion on Nico is polarized even outside VU fandom.
    • Then there are those who refuse to listen to anything the band did after Cale's departure.
  • Epic Riff: Most of their songs, but especially "Sweet Jane" and "Sister Ray."
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  • Face of the Band: Lou Reed.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Lou Reed died on a Sunday morning.
  • Funny Moments: "The Gift" from White Light/White Heat as a whole, notably the in-song "audience"'s reaction.
  • Gateway Series: The band is one for Proto Punk.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • See the note under Vindicated by History about their Eastern European popularity.
    • The band was also a major influence on the British Punk Rock scene. The band seemed bigger in the UK in general than their home country as their first album has gone platinum and their third went sliver (a few of their compilations have received sales certificates as well) after David Bowie championed Lou Reed and the VU and produced Transformer. In contrast, none of their albums have received a sales certificate in America.
    • On a regional level, the band had a following in the Boston area. Doug Yule hailed from there.
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    • The band had a huge influence on the German Krautrock movement, particularly on Can and Neu!,
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The lyrics to "Sunday Morning", given that Lou Reed died on a Sunday morning in 2013. Lines like "watch out, the world's behind you" change meaning completely.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: A guy once actually did mail himself to his girlfriend. Fortunately, he didn't get killed but did get in trouble with the Post Office.
  • Mainstream Obscurity: Despite the band's massive impact on popular music, not many people outside the professional music scene have heard of them and even fewer have actually listened to their songs.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Although Lou Reed may have written and sung songs about heroin, he was actually rather shocked when he heard from fans saying that they started doing the stuff after hearing the song "Heroin." (For the record, he had only done the drug twice when he wrote the song and preferred amphetamines).
  • Mis-blamed: It's not Yule's fault Squeeze exists. It's Steve Sesnick's.
  • Older Than They Think: A number of songs later performed in more famous versions by other artists were originally demoed as Velvet Underground songs. Examples include Nico's "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" and Reed's "Satellite of Love", "Oh Jim", "Caroline Says II", and "Sad Song".
  • Paranoia Fuel: "Lady Godiva's Operation", big time. It starts off with John Cale doing a rare lead vocal, and sounding rather mellow as well. The mood darkens when Lou Reed starts sing-speaking. Then the entire musical background goes haywire, and someone's whispering in one channel. Make sure you're wide awake for this one.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Doug Yule gets treated like this despite his contributions on the last two albums; he wasn't invited to the 1993 reunion (although he later said he would've declined anyway if he'd been asked), and was even excluded from the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction.
    Interviewer: Where's Doug Yule?
    Lou Reed: Dead, I hope.
    • Despite this, Yule's contributions to the group shouldn't be overlooked, as he was a multi-instrumentalist just as versatile as Cale, and he brought some strong melodic sensibilities to the group with him. He also often gets Mis-blamed for Squeeze, as mentioned above. See here.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: While they are a rather influential band that pioneered the use of feedback, noise, and unorthodox tunings, modern listeners sometimes fail to realize why they were so groundbreaking due to how common those things have become among more modern acts like Sonic Youth and The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were also one of the first bands to actually mention controversial topics such as drugs, sex, violence, and so on, which are now common themes for songs, but in their time, many record stores actually refused to carry their albums due to the objectionable nature of their lyrics.
    Lou Reed: (Introducing "Heroin") Yes, it still exists. Now in the original days, not only was it banned, but they wouldn't take advertisements for our album because of it. Now here we are doin' it over the radio. Very funny.
  • Signature Song: "Who Loves the Sun", "Sweet Jane", and "Rock & Roll" are the three songs you're likeliest to hear on the radio (at least in the United States), but "Heroin" is probably their most notorious and influential song. Other candidates include (but are by no means limited to) "Sunday Morning", "I'm Waiting for the Man", "Femme Fatale", "Venus in Furs", "All Tomorrow's Parties", "I'll Be Your Mirror" (OK, basically the whole first album), "White Light/White Heat", "Sister Ray", "Pale Blue Eyes", and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'".
  • So Bad, It Was Better: The '60s and '70s live recordings were almost all recorded by amateurs, because the band had no idea that people would want to hear live performances of theirs decades down the road, and as one Allmusic review states, "Whether the original Velvets rehearsed regularly or not, in concert their every movement appeared to be a step into the absolute unknown. " Meanwhile, the live material from their 1990's reunion is professionally recorded and meticulously rehearsed, and thus there is a sort of familiarity to the material that many find disconcerting.
  • Sophomore Slump: White Light / White Heat is a notable aversion. It's often cited by critics as one of the best albums of all time and was as crucial to the development of Punk Rock as the first album was.
  • Vindicated by History: Brian Eno is credited with saying it best: Only 30,000 people bought The Velvet Underground & Nico, and all of them started a band.
    • We can NOT leave out how the VU, along with Frank Zappa, were HUGELY INFLUENTIAL on the Velvet Revolution led by playwright Vaclav Havel, which led to the overthrow of the Stalinist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia. Havel later became the country's President and continued in office after the Velvet Divorce peacefully split the country into The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Reed AND Zappa would both go on to separately interview Havel. (Reed's can be found in his book Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed.)


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