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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 30 - White Light/White Heat

The Velvet Underground's first two albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico (March 1967) and White Light/White Heat (January 1968) didn't really set the music business on fire when they were first released. The debut with Nico had barely managed to get to #129 in the US (though #59 in the UK) and White Light/White Heat only squeaked into the chart at #199 in the US and two weeks later it was gone! Both were considered financial failures so it's an absolute wonder that these two albums these days are held in high regard. The debut album was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006 and featured at #13 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The Observer newspaper in 2006 had the album at #1 in their 50 Albums That Changed Music list.

The follow-up was also in the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time but much lower at #293 yet both of these albums have been very influential down through the years particularly upon Punk music and also some Indie Music in the UK.

For the second album Nico had been dispensed with (she went on to record a number of solo albums including her own debut Chelsea Girl that 5 songs written or co-written by members of The Velvets), as had the services of Andy Warhol. It would be the last album of new material that founding member John Cale would play on. He felt that the new manager Steve Sesnick was trying to push Lou Reed as the band leader at the expense of band harmony. He would later be fired from the band after a show at the Boston Tea Party in September 1968. It's hard to fathom who was telling the truth about whom because Lou Reed had been saying he wanted the band to more accessible and yet Cale was a bit too way out with his ideas and they didn't fit what he wanted. Cale on the other hand was saying  there had been creative tensions with Reed but that such things have been widely exaggerated over the years.

The album was recorded in just two days! John Cale has said that the debut album had "some gentility, some beauty. The second one was consciously anti-beauty." Sterling Morrisson said, "We were all pulling in the same direction. We may have been dragging each other off a cliff, but we were all definitely going in the same direction. In the White Light/White Heat era, our lives were chaos. That's what's reflected in the record." 

The subject matter is fairly typical of The Velvet Underground, a smattering of drug references and bizzare and debauched sexual behaviour etc. Lady Godiva's Operation being about a botched up Lobotomy on a transsexual woman and Sister Ray a failed orgy between drag queens!

Five of the six tracks have been covered over the years (I cannot vouch for how good or bad these covers are, some I know very well others not so much): 
White Light/White Heat

Lady Godiva's Operation

Here She Comes Now
 I Heard Her Call My Name
Sister Ray

White Light/White Heat - The Velvet Underground
Produced by Tom Wilson
Released 30th January 1968
US Chart #199

Track listing
All songs written and composed by Lou Reed, except as noted.
Side A
01. "White Light/White Heat"  2:47
02. "The Gift"  (Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Maureen Tucker) 8:18
03. "Lady Godiva's Operation" 4:56
04. "Here She Comes Now"  (Reed, Morrison, Cale) 2:04
Side B
05. "I Heard Her Call My Name"   4:38
06. "Sister Ray" (Reed, Morrison, Cale, Tucker) 17:28

The Velvet Underground
    John Cale – lead vocals (track 3), backing vocals (tracks 1 and 5), spoken word (track 2), electric viola (tracks 3 and 4), organ (track 6), piano (tracks 1 and 4), bass guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4 and 5), medical sound effects (track 3)
    Sterling Morrison – lead guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4 and 6), rhythm guitar (track 5), bass guitar (track 3), backing vocals (tracks 1, 3 and 5), medical sound effects (track 3)
    Lou Reed – lead vocals, lead guitar (tracks 2, 3, 5 and 6), rhythm guitar (tracks 1 and 4)
    Maureen Tucker – percussion (tracks 1–5), drums (track 6)


Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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