The idea behind this ‘series’ is that once every two weeks another year will be brought into attention, starting with 1963 and moving onward chronologically. One and only one album will be selected and written about from each year, the criteria being a mix of personal preference and historical relevance. If you stumble upon this article by any chance and end up not clicking the ‘x’ button in disgust, keep in mind that I would love to hear your choice for the respective year – from a simple comment stating the album’s name, to detailed analysis that will destroy my argument and make me reconsider my reasoning. Remember, one of the main reasons I’m doing this is to get a better perspective of what albums I’ve missed out on, from each period of time.
Today’s Pick: The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
I must admit, I’ve always found it difficult to come up with a short and concise answer when asked “What kind of music do you listen to?”. If I say “oh, just about everything” I’ll sound like one of those persons whose only daily contact to music is turning the radio on for 20 minutes on the way to work and listening to whatever’s on. I’m not big on naming specific genres either. First because they usually come with preconceptions attached to them such as “Country music is so formulaic that it all sounds the same” or even worse, “Rock?! You mean you worship Satan?”. And second, how does one classify, say, The Beatles as? Is there a single term that can seriously comprise every song they’ve ever done? Didn’t think so either.
However, if there is a word that can characterize a good deal of my favourite albums, it’s intriguing. It’s true, I’ve always been attracted to things that stand out for better or for worse, and that have an interesting story behind them. ‘Velvet Underground & Nico’ is, simply put, the definition of intriguing. It’s one of those records that sold few copies upon release, but whose popularity and influence grew gradually as time went by. Meeting a Velvet Underground fan in 1967 was probably as hard of a task as it is today to find a “best albums of all-time” list that doesn’t feature this album. Another aspect that makes it so unique is its eclectic blend of personalities and styles, in many ways reminiscent of the whole ‘Warhol factory’ scene it came from – a place where everyone got a chance to express their creativity, however weird and unconventional, and regardless of the art form they chose as medium.
And then there’s the album itself. To say that each song is a highlight is to say nothing – the Velvet Underground seem to re-invent the rules of music-making over and over again as the album progresses. Simply put, there are no two tracks that sound alike and you’d struggle to find precursors in the 60’s pop music for many of them. If there is one thing that they have in common, and that somehow assures the flow of the album, it’s that they’re all so goddamn brilliant. A rare case in which a song-by-song analysis would actually work just as much as discussing the album as a whole.
To be honest, the main reason why it took me so long to post this article is because I had the hardest of time deciding upon the album that I’ll talk about. It will come as no surprise to you when I say this, but the number of artists reaching their peak in 1967 almost equals that of female celebrities that John Mayer dated. But in the end, as much as I would love picturing myself in a boat on a river, lying on an eiderdown, thinking I’m happy then becoming happy as a result of that, singing together with everybody and seeing what will happen, a good old afternoon tea, a sweet little foxy lady or simply relaxing and settling down, none of them creates such a strong impression on both my heart and my brain as does Velvet Underground’s hard-hitting street-poetry.
Do you agree? What’s your favourite album from 1967?
Categories: Album of the Year