The Velvet Underground & Nico was released 50 years ago today on Verve Records on March 12, 1967. A seminal debut release of the burgeoning avant-garde rock era, it embodied the concurrent thrills and dangers of the uptown/downtown New York scene, laying down the gauntlet/template for the late Lou Reed‘s brilliant career as an observational songwriter.
While some may argue the album’s sonic template is very much lo-fi, there are indeed hi-res listening options available at both 192/24 and 96/24 on HDtracks, which I feel are quite worthwhile to hear the urgent interplay between Reed, violist/pianist/bassist John Cale, rhythm guitarist Sterling Morrison, drummer/percussionist Moe Tucker, and even the unschooled nuances of chanteuse Nico’s vocal efforts on “Femme Fatale,” “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”
Besides the above-noted hi-res downloads obtainable on HDtracks, The Velvet Underground & Nico is also available in Blu-ray form as a standalone High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray released on import by Polydor/UMe in 2013. And, you know me — I see that as a missed opportunity to have had the album made available in a 5.1 mix.
I played the original Verve LP to no end during my freshman year of college, having obtained a used copy at a local record show — albeit one with the infamous Andy Warhol banana cover art peeled off. (Not to worry; I found an intact copy a few years later.) I would literally cue up the dreamy opening track “Sunday Morning” every Sunday a.m. like clockwork, and never got tired of spinning the urgency of “I’m Waiting for the Man,” the sacrosanct/scary nod of “Heroin,” the wreckless back-to-back dangers of “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and “European Son.” and, most especially, the ever-touching poignancy of the aforementioned “I’ll Be Your Mirror.”
I also loved R.E.M.’s cover of “There She Goes Again,” which can be found on their 1987 compilation Dead Letter Office. (It was also included as a bonus track on the expanded 1993 CD edition of their 1983 debut album Murmur, not to mention the B-side to their 1983 single release for “Radio Free Europe.”). It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize that the song’s syncopated riff was directly influenced by/borrowed from The Rolling Stones’ 1965 Out of Our Heads cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike.”
The Velvet Underground & Nico is most definitely a Top 10 MM pick for the ages, and for all tomorrow’s parties to come.