The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

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spiritualized
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The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by spiritualized » Wed Jul 27, 2016 12:28 pm

Driving on the motorway yesterday, Spotify decided to play one VU song which I thought epitomized the Velvet Underground's essence. This song was Venus in Furs. But upon looking at the AM ranking, it turns out that Venus in Furs is ranked 245th and the third most acclaimed song from VU after I'm Waiting for the Man and Heroin

I think Venus is a brilliant rendering of everything the VU was - menacing yet melodious, torn yet soothing.

Since we have a great number of fans on this forum, I wonder if I am in the majority or the minority ? What song do you think is most representative of the band - if you had to introduce the band to a total novice and had only one song to do it, which one would it be ?

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by BleuPanda » Wed Jul 27, 2016 1:29 pm

"Heroin" has always been my choice, being my #2 all-time song and everything. It captures everything the band does best, and in a way that goes deeper than their usual output.

Where most Velvet Underground songs explore the seedier sides of modern living, "Heroin" reaches its highest points when it transcends those settings into an existentialist crescendo. While a song about shooting up, it's truly about why someone would choose to do so. This is carried by the passion in Reed's voice, but also in the way the music itself represents this state of mind. Where both "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin" are notable for their use of the electric viola, it's just another instrument in "Venus in Furs." In "Heroin," it becomes a weapon. As Reed hits the most intense moments of his tirade, the viola morphs into little more than a screeching monstrosity.

I guess, in many ways, The Velvet Underground has two types of songs, traditional pieces (with their unique take on subject matter and instrumentation) and a few works that exist more as experiences (think "The Gift" and "Lady Godiva's Operation"). "Heroin" straddles the line between the two; I listen to it as much to jam out as I do to receive this unique take on life. Reed's ramblings combined with that hypnotic drum beat and electric viola create a sound that hasn't ever been truly recreated, even with its influences being obvious. It's a perfect juxtaposition, combining Reed's soothing vocals with what at times could best be described as noise.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Harold » Wed Jul 27, 2016 2:48 pm

"Venus in Furs" might be my favorite Velvets song as well, but I'd have to go with "I'm Waiting for the Man" as the most representative song. When I wrote about the song in this forum for Bracketology years ago, I said that if a person who'd never heard the band asked what they sounded like, "I'm Waiting for the Man" would be the song to play. With its driving, insistent rhythms, its then-unconventional subject matter and detailed depictions of certain sections (and denizens) of New York City, Reed's inimitable delivery, and Cale's memorably repetitive banging on the "wrong" piano chord at the very end, it perfectly exemplifies what the VU were all about.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by BleuPanda » Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:22 pm

In the context of most representative song, do they really have one? The Velvet Underground is one of those great bands that go through many different phases. We've mentioned three songs from VU&N, but do any of those songs really represent the same band that made Loaded? I'd say "Sweet Jane" is about as iconic as the rest, but in a very different way. Even in their more experimental albums, how close is "Sister Ray" to "Pale Blue Eyes"? I think part of their appeal as a band is they go in so many different directions between songs; this is a band one could easily argue a dozen different songs by as their 'best,' as all their greatest hits are great in entirely different ways.

The Velvet Underground is a band that never does the same thing but better; your favorite song is going to be the one that best matches your own mindset.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by spiritualized » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:20 pm

No Bleu, you're spot on, great bands shouldn't and can't be reduced to one song only. But I liked the idea behind : if you had the choice of only one, which one would it be and what does it say about you ?
You answered brilliantly on Heroin and so did Harold on Waiting for the man....

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by spiritualized » Wed Jul 27, 2016 4:26 pm

Somehow my enjoyment of Waiting for the Man got seriously impaired by the interminable repeat takes for this song on "peel slowly and see" :whistle:

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Dan » Wed Jul 27, 2016 5:05 pm

spiritualized wrote:If you had to introduce the band to a total novice and had only one song to do it, which one would it be ?
For me, it would also be “Venus in Furs”. I feel that a song from the Velvet Underground’s debut album would have to be a point of introduction to anyone who hasn’t heard the band before, and as “Venus in Furs” was the song that excited me the most the first time I listened to their debut (and is still my favourite song of theirs), it would definitely be the first song I’d recommend. It was the music in the song that gripped me first and foremost: the ostrich guitar with all of its strings tuned to the same note, the electric viola, the ghostly bass and tambourine shakes. Only after listening to it a couple of times did I realize that the lyrics were about kinky sex (bondage, sadomasochism, and all that). Then I liked the music even more, because it perfectly suited the lyrical content. But even if you just focus on the music without listening to the lyrics, it could be a suitable introduction to the Velvet Underground to someone who hasn’t heard them before or who is curious about what made their avant-garde rock so groundbreaking.

As a fan of world music, I’ve also been fascinated by articles and comments about how the song sounds a bit Middle Eastern. To quote a writer called Erich Kuersten: "There is no intro or build-up to the song; the track starts as if you opened a door to a decadent Marrakesh S&M/opium den, a blast of air-conditioned Middle Eastern menace with a plodding beat.” Er… yeah! Liberating stuff.
...will keep us together.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Listyguy » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:12 pm

I'm personally partial towards "All Tomorrow's Parties". Not that is necessarily represents that VU perfectly, but it does feature Nico, who was a huge part of their debut album.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by PlasticRam » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:15 pm

My fav is Pale Blue Eyes.

Edit: I don't know about the most representative.
I feel like that

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Pierre » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:24 pm

My first exposition to the VU was before I was ten; a double attack of "Sunday Morning" and "Heroin" on one of my parents' cassette in the car. Don't worry, back then I didn't understand a single word of English. No matter what, it fascinated me and even today the VU remains one of my most essential acts. My favourite songs today, for some reason, are "All Tomorrow's Parties" (this piano riff and Nico's singing just won't leave me) and "Sister Ray" (a ricochet of my love for shoegaze, I guess).

What track would I use to introduce someone to the VU? "Heroin", I guess. Most of the people I'd probably be likely to expose to the VU would hardly understand most of the lyrics, so I think I'd just confront them with the idiosyncracies of their sound, and music-wise this track hits just the middle ground between their pop sensibilities and their more experimental inclinations.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by prosecutorgodot » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:31 pm

My favorite is Heroin, it perfected the ritardando-accelerando that the Beach Boys introduced on Wouldn't It Be Nice. LIke PlasticRam and BleuPanda said, not into thinking about the "representative" song.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by spiritualized » Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:48 pm

Pierre wrote:My first exposition to the VU was before I was ten; a double attack of "Sunday Morning" and "Heroin" on one of my parents' cassette in the car. Don't worry, back then I didn't understand a single word of English. No matter what, it fascinated me and even today the VU remains one of my most essential acts. My favourite songs today, for some reason, are "All Tomorrow's Parties" (this piano riff and Nico's singing just won't leave me) and "Sister Ray" (a ricochet of my love for shoegaze, I guess).
Wow impressive. I can't imagine my parents listening to the VU. And yet they were 68ards :) I guess that period in France was more about Flower Power than art rock from New York. So the VU is totally self taught on my side.
On another point, I am always a bit dubious (but just a bit) about the Nico tracks. I find that she was too cold and distracting, maybe the accent, I don't know. I think that Reed and Cale's voices were more suited to the style.

Interesting comments from everyone, it seems Heroin is a firm favorite...

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Live in Phoenix » Wed Jul 27, 2016 9:04 pm

"Sunday Morning" is my favorite. If not "Sister Ray." Incidentally, they're totally different from each other.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Toni » Thu Jul 28, 2016 2:47 am

spiritualized wrote:if you had to introduce the band to a total novice and had only one song to do it, which one would it be ?
Well, some years ago I was showing some artists to a friend and, when talking about VU, the song I showed her was Venus in Furs. She immediately loved the sound and, some time later, told me the band had become a favorite.

Although I consider Sunday Morning my personal favorite, and Heroin has some of the most pungent moments of it's album, I've always seen Venus In Furs as their signature track, the moment where the sonic experiments looked, at the same time, the most exquisite, likeable and unique. Many of their debut's tracks are totally different from what was being created at the time, but this one was, indeed, the "most different" among them all.

And Dan, I agree with the Mid-Eastern feeling. That's, probably, because eastern music usually explores the "space between" musical notes (like the viola in this case), instead of attaining to each straight note. Anyway, I had always thought the band was influenced by Indian music with this approach.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by acroamor » Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:41 am

I totally agree with "Venus in Furs" as their most representative song, although I could see a case for "Heroin" or even for "Sister Ray". Although my favorite songs by them are "Rock and Roll" and "Stephanie Says", which could hardly be considered representative.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Pierre » Thu Jul 28, 2016 7:09 am

spiritualized wrote:
Pierre wrote:My first exposition to the VU was before I was ten; a double attack of "Sunday Morning" and "Heroin" on one of my parents' cassette in the car. Don't worry, back then I didn't understand a single word of English. No matter what, it fascinated me and even today the VU remains one of my most essential acts. My favourite songs today, for some reason, are "All Tomorrow's Parties" (this piano riff and Nico's singing just won't leave me) and "Sister Ray" (a ricochet of my love for shoegaze, I guess).
Wow impressive. I can't imagine my parents listening to the VU. And yet they were 68ards :) I guess that period in France was more about Flower Power than art rock from New York. So the VU is totally self taught on my side.
It's a nice exception to the otherwise "classic hippie" rock tastes my parents :) I guess when you hardly understand the lyrics and you like glam rock, they find a comfortable place among other classics of psychedelic rock.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Jackson » Thu Jul 28, 2016 10:34 pm

As boring as it is, my four favorite VU songs are Venus in Furs, Sunday Morning, Heroin, and I'm Waiting for the Man, in that order. I think at various times all four of those tracks has been my favorite and I get the arguments for each (as well as Sister Ray, Sweet Jane, and Pale Blue Eyes).

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by DocBrown » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:04 pm

spiritualized wrote: On another point, I am always a bit dubious (but just a bit) about the Nico tracks.
I will cast another vote for "All Tomorrow's Parties". I really have no idea about Nico's fluency in English in 1968, but I hear the lyric delivered flat and inflectionless as if delivered phonetically. As such it becomes just another instrument in the mix. She certainly makes no effort to interpret the lyric. That coldness is what makes it so effective for me.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Maschine_Man » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:31 pm

I remember the first time I listened to their debut. The song that hit me the hardest was Femme Fatal, I had to re-listen to it a couple of times until I moved onto Venus In Furs. The way she pronounces clown always gets me.

All Tomorrow's Parties is a very close second.

I would like to voice my strong admiration for After Hours, which is slowly climbing the ranks of my favorite VU songs. It's so beautiful and bittersweet.

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Re: The Velvet Underground *BEST* ever song ?

Post by Dexter » Fri Jul 29, 2016 6:35 am

"Sweet Jane" is probably their most widely heard, "Heroin" their most representative and "I'm Waiting for the Man" being pushed by Rolling Stone as their best but I tend to prefer the lush and relatively gentler sounds on songs like "Sunday Morning" and "Femme Fatale." But my personal best would be "Pale Blue Eyes", a love song at that! I don't know why but it's popular in South Korea. This song was best used in the amazing film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The lyrics resonated with me and the hauntingly slow, its spare guitar and tambourine is just perfect.

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