The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by American rock band The Velvet Underground and vocal collaborator Nico. It was originally released in March 1967 by Verve Records. Recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour, The Velvet Underground & Nico would gain notoriety for its experimentalist performance sensibilities, as well as the focus on controversial subject matter expressed in many of their songs including drug abuse, prostitution, sadism and masochism and sexual deviancy.
Though a commercial and critical failure upon release, the record has since become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed rock albums in history, appearing at number thirteen on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
The Velvet Underground & Nico was recorded with the first professional line-up of The Velvet Underground, including Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker. Germansinger Nico was also featured, having occasionally performed lead vocals for the band at the instigation of their mentor and manager, Andy Warhol. Nico sang lead on three of the album's tracks—"Femme Fatale", "All Tomorrow's Parties" and "I'll Be Your Mirror"—and back-up on "Sunday Morning". In 1966, as the album was being recorded, this was also the line-up for their live performances as a part of Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
The bulk of the songs that would become The Velvet Underground & Nico were recorded in mid-April, 1966, during a four-day stint at Scepter Studios, a decrepit recording studio in New York City. This recording session was financed by Warhol and Columbia Records' sales executive Norman Dolph, who also acted as an engineer with John Licata. Though exact total cost of the project is unknown, estimates vary from $1,500 to $3,000.
Soon after recording, Dolph sent an acetate disc of the recordings to Columbia in an attempt to interest them in distributing the album, but they declined, as did Atlantic Records and Elektra Records. Eventually, the MGM Records-owned Verve Records accepted the recordings with the help of Verve staff producer Tom Wilson, who had recently moved from a job at Columbia.
With the affirmation of a label, three of the songs, "I'm Waiting for the Man", "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin", were re-recorded in two days at T.T.G. Studios during a stay in Hollywood later in 1966. When the record's release date was postponed, Wilson brought the band into a New York studio in November 1966 to add a final song to the track listing: the single "Sunday Morning".
There is some confusion as to who actually produced The Velvet Underground & Nico. Although Andy Warhol was the only formally credited producer, he had very little direct influence or authority over the album beyond paying for the recording sessions. In fact, several other individuals who worked on the album are often mentioned as the album's technical producer.
Norman Dolph and John Licata are sometimes attributed to producing the Scepter Studios sessions, considering they were responsible for recording and engineering them (despite the fact that neither of the two were ever mentioned in the original album's credits). Dolph himself, however, admits John Cale as the album's rightful creative producer, as he handled the majority of the album's musical arrangements. And yet, Cale later recalled that it was Tom Wilson who actually produced nearly all the tracks on The Velvet Underground & Nico. "The band never again had as good a producer as Tom Wilson", Cale told an interviewer. "Andy Warhol didn't do anything."
However, others cite Warhol's lack of manipulation on the album itself a legitimate means of production. Sterling Morrison described Warhol as the album's producer "in the sense of producing a film." Lou Reed further discussed the matter in an interview:
- He just made it possible for us to be ourselves and go right ahead with it because he was Andy Warhol. In a sense, he really did produce it, because he was this umbrella that absorbed all the attacks when we weren't large enough to be attacked... and as a consequence of him being the producer, we'd just walk in and set up and do what we always did and no one would stop it because Andy was the producer. Of course he didn't know anything about record production—but he didn't have to. He just sat there and said "Oooh, that's fantastic," and the engineer would say, "Oh yeah! Right! It is fantastic, isn't it?"
All songs written and composed by Lou Reed unless otherwise noted.
|1.||"Sunday Morning"||Reed, Cale||2:54|
|2.||"I'm Waiting for the Man"||4:39|
|4.||"Venus in Furs"||5:12|
|5.||"Run Run Run"||4:22|
|6.||"All Tomorrow's Parties"||6:00|
|8.||"There She Goes Again"||2:41|
|9.||"I'll Be Your Mirror"||2:14|
|10.||"The Black Angel's Death Song"||Reed, Cale||3:11|
|11.||"European Son"||Reed, Cale, Morrison, Tucker||7:46|