Just a quick post, darlings, with promises of adventures to come very soon. I’ve been listening and re-listening to my favourite Velvet Underground album lately, and thought I’d share some things with you, my faithful readers, on the subject.
If you’re not aware of the Velvet Underground in general, or this album in particular, it is not too late for you to pick up and enjoy — or to peel slowly and see, if you prefer.
As much as I love the first album with Nico joining the band, Loaded is, in my opinion, the most accessible Velvets album, hitting on many pop-perfect conventions and producing some iconic songs, such as Sweet Jane, Rock ‘N Roll, New Age, and Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.
Interesting side note — truly, only John Cale and Lou Reed achieved any real success outside of the Velvet Underground, and the band itself was largely unsuccessful during their time, and has really only been appreciated after the fact. (You may know Lou Reed as “that guy who sings Walk On The Wild Side” and if you like the “Shrek” version of Leonard Cohen‘s Hallelujah, you have John Cale to thank. Cohen’s original version is bloated and overproduced, while Cale’s arrangement, with its simple arpeggio line, is the one everyone, including Mr. Rufus Wainwright in Shrek, copies.) Another fun fact — Maureen Tucker, who was the drummer up until she left on maternity leave (she wouldn’t actually play on most of Loaded) ended up working at a Walmart in Georgia. Just goes to show that not every rock star becomes a decadent millionaire with mansions and yachts.
I’ve recently tried turning on a certain wanderer to this album, because, as someone once said — not a lot of people bought the Velvet Underground records at the time, but everyone who did immediately went out and started a band. They have been incredibly influential on a lot of my favourite musicians, and have been covered by everyone. (Incidentally, if you want to find something amazing, Beck has covered the entire “Velvet Underground and Nico” album and gave it away for free on his website.)
I thought it would be fun to see if I could come up with the entire album covered by various artists.
1. Who Loves the Sun – Teenage Fanclub – I had never heard this before — it’s quite good!
2. Sweet Jane – Cowboy Junkies – this cover is so famous, most people probably know this better than the original. Don’t get me wrong — I love this version, but, if you know anything about the Cowboy Junkies, they only have one speed: slow and depressing. Which is fine unless it’s mid-February and you’re suicidal. The original is so powerful in its energy — the strength of this cover is that it re-invents the song as something haunting.
3. Rock & Roll – The Lucid – Again, I had never heard this one — but it’s good as well.
4. Cool It Down – Phish – Phish is always good for covers — somewhere in my Terabytes of music I’ve got a bootleg of them doing the entire Dark Side of the Moon album by Pink Floyd.
5. New Age – Tori Amos — I absolutely LOVE this cover, and Tori amazes me. She’s famous (or infamous) for her covers, which are often wonderful and sometimes horrible. I remember buying Strange Little Girls (where this cut comes from) because I saw that she covered “Happiness is a Warm Gun” (easily my favourite Beatles song, and not just because it was John’s as well. Well, that or Strawberry Fields Forever — but I digress). However, “Happiness…” was the WORST song on the album — it was one of those infamous covers where Tori decides to make up her own melody and music and only seems to know some of the lyrics, which makes you scratch your head and wonder if she’s actually heard the original song. New Age is incredible, though — just the warm tones of the electric piano she uses on this are enough to give me chills.
6. (or side two, darlings — oh, how I sometimes miss LPs) Head Held High – My Morning Jacket. This is the only proper cover I could find of this, and it’s a live recording, so I hope it’s okay!
7. Lonesome Cowboy Bill – Gnashville – Never heard of them. Are they a thing? Who knows. This one was hard to find.
8. I Found A Reason – Cat Power — this cover is wonderful, and her voice is amazing. Bet you didn’t realize this was a VU cover, did’ja?
9. Train Round the Bend – Phish – I did find one other cover, but, darlings, I didn’t want to subject you to it. WOOF!
10. Oh! Sweet Nuthin’. – This one has been covered by EVERYONE (except Ke$ha for some reason… oh well, I’m sure she’ll get her foul mouth around to it), and for good reason. It’s one of my favourites, and so I’m giving you your pick of my favourite three: Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket and The Black Crowes
I hope you enjoyed this overview — now go listen to the album! I’m off to court, where I hope to avoid going to jail, going directly to jail, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. It’s a funny story, really, but never fear, I shall tell you all shortly.