The Velvet Underground: very much a band’s band, and much loved by critics and influencers. Their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico might not have shifted many units on its initial release in 1967, but as Brian Eno remarked, everyone who bought that album started a band of their own. Later, it would be seen as a classic, and the band would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Velvet Underground are a band that should have a place in every serious rock fan’s collection and heart. And yet when I discovered recently that Ambulance Ltd’s track Ocean - which appears on their one and only album LP - was a cover of a Velvet Underground track, the first time I listened to the original was also the first time I had listened to any Velvet Underground track since registering with last.fm nearly ten years ago. During that time it seems my only contact with The Velvet Underground has been through covers: Ocean I’ve already mentioned, but also Femme Fatale, covered by R.E.M. and Big Star, and Pale Blue Eyes and There She Goes Again - two more R.E.M. covers, both of which appear on their b-sides and bits and bobs compilation Dead Letter Office.
I know there was a time when I was partial to a bit of Velvet Underground / Lou Reed. Like Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground appeared on a RCD Magazine cover CD that I used to listen to a bit. and I had a copy of Transformer at one stage. I don’t know exactly what it was that turned me off (perhaps the dreadful versions of Perfect Day with the likes of Heather Small yelling at me about reaping what I sow had something to do with it), but I do remember really hating Venus in Furs for a while, during my hyper-opinionated period. I mean really hating. Forgive me - I was young and headstrong, and ill-advised: clearly it’s not one of the most hideous dirges ever committed to vinyl; no more than slightly grating, perhaps.