You could say that The Velvet Underground was anti-rock in the same way that Warhol was anti-art – neither of them really were, but you couldn’t shake the fact that that was the air they gave off. This was 1967; San Fran’s summer of love, the Beatles in motion with Sgt. Pepper while Pink Floyd was still embryonic and Led Zeppelin was getting into its stride: that was the scene.
Separate to it all, here came Lou Reed & co. with The Velvet Underground & Nico, the closest thing to garage rock the ’60s ever had. From a 21st century perspective it’s roots. But the heart of it lies in informality – strip it back to amp and classic kit and this is what you get. Unprocessed art rock, heavy on feedback and about as raw as it got.
And Nico – especially under Lou Reed’s treatment – is almost elegaic. With a drone sort of quality that’s as beautiful as it is strange, she conjures up some sort of regal sorrow. All Tomorrow’s Parties takes a leap into the hearts of introverts anonymous – myself included. In particular:
What costume shall the poor girl wear, To all tomorrow’s parties?
No, this is more than just Warhol’s little lab experiment. It’s unlikely genius pressed in 12-inch, cut rough. And imperfection’s never been as flawless.