The Velvet Underground (1967)
The year was 1967. While everyone else was being deep, transcendental, and orchestrated, the Velvet Underground was the only band around who was real, raw and strung out. Under the tutelage (and sound engineering) of Andy Warhol, their music was postmodern and experimental in ways that wouldn’t be explored and popularized until 10-20 years later. Their influence is incalculable, and while their detached hipster ideology seems trivial by today’s standards, it was revolutionary for its time.
Their second album would add avant-garde leanings, their third would strip things down and go lo-fi folksy, and the last would turn their sound toward roots rock. But this debut really contains everything innovative about them: their dabbling in German cabaret and drone; beat-poetry-esque lyrics discussing dark topics like sadomasochism and hardcore drug use; noisy, unstructured improvisational jams which were meant to be part of a novel live multimedia experience (“European Son”); a simplicity and roughness which would later feed into punk; and the classical experimentation of cellist John Cale. As the title suggests, the band was augmented during this LP with the addition of odd, husky-voiced chanteuse Nico. Like the Velvet Underground themselves, her singing is nothing if not divisive, but there’s not much else like it.
Key track: “All Tomorrow’s Parties”