This is it, Dig-Nation. Velvet Underground Month comes to a close. It's been 5 weeks of posts on this fascinating band, and to bring things to an end, I'm going to give a brief overview of some of the music I didn't cover, as well as my closing thoughts on the band and this experience of covering them in depth.
I focused on the four main studio albums of the Velvet Underground. There was actually a fifth, which features none of the original members, only Doug Yule. It's called Squeeze, and everything I've read makes it sound utterly inessential.
The album I would recommend getting next if you are looking for more is called VU. It is essentially the lost 4th album. The band started on Verve for The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light / White Heat, before moving up to parent label MGM for The Velvet Underground. The eventually got dropped and ended up with Atlantic for Loaded. In this last period, there were many songs recorded for another album on MGM, which finally got released in 1985 as VU. It has some incredible tracks; I'm sure "Stephanie Says" would have earned a high spot on the Power Rankings (and for a quick connection, check out the tune "Savannah Smiles" by Okkervil River. Will Sheff is an allusive songwriter, so I don't think it's a coincidence). Other notable songs are "I Can't Stand It" and "Lisa Says." Buy it here.
The Velvet Underground – Stephanie Says
The next year, a second collection of tracks from this time came out as Another View. It's not quite as highly acclaimed, since most of the best tracks made VU, but it still has some good stuff, including two versions of "Hey Mr. Rain," which feature the last appearance of John Cale. You can buy it here.
Both the band's first and last albums have been released in deluxe forms. The reissue of The Velvet Underground & Nico features a mono mix of the entire album and the singles, as well as five cuts from Nico's album Chelsea Girl that she wrote and performed with the band. Loaded: The Fully Loaded Edition has demo, early, full, or alternate versions of every track that made the album, plus at least six songs which do not appear on VU or Another View. You can get them here and here, respectively.
You may have noticed some of my links in the live posts came from something called 1969: The Velvet Underground Live Vol. 1 and 2. These two albums, as is obvious, are live recordings from 1969. They are quite amazing; so many good performances are captured on each. The band really took their songs in interesting directions while performing, making them must-hears. I highly recommend you check them out. Purchase here and here.
Finally, there's the mother lode: the 5-disc box set Peel Slowly and See. It collects all four albums, including the "closet mix" of The Velvet Underground that Lou preferred, just about every track found on VU, Another View, and the deluxe editions, plus live tracks from 1969 and at least nine songs you can't find anywhere else. If you want to own just about everything the Velvet Underground did, organized roughly chronologically, and get it all at once, this is the item for you! You can get it here.
As far as post-Velvet Underground goes, the band did reunite in the 1990s. Individually, Lou Reed went on to a fairly prolific and diverse solo career. There were hits – "Walk on the Wild Side" – misses – Metal Machine Music, an album literally of feedback – and curveballs – The Raven project, not to mention his upcoming collaboration with Metallica: Lulu. John Cale continued to work as a musician and also produced a wide range of acts. Sterling Morrison mainly pursued non-musical interests, including earning a PhD in medieval studies and becoming captain of a tugboat (!). Sadly, he passed away on August 30, 1995 of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Maureen Tucker worked at Wal-Mart for a little while before getting back into music in the 1990s. She last surfaced in an interview where she voiced her support for the Tea Party. Doug Yule carried on the Velvet Underground name after everyone else left, before moving on to other musical pursuits. He was not part of the 1990s reunion or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, but he did appear with Lou and Maureen at an event in 2009.
In closing, just a few thoughts. Most of my music-related insights can be found at the conclusion of each album review (The Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light / White Heat, The Velvet Underground, Loaded), but briefly, I really enjoyed spending time with this band. Each album was different from the last, making it hard to articulate what the distinct "Velvet Underground" aura that seemed to carry through the discography actually is. Nevertheless, I can see why they were groundbreaking, influential, and still considered important today. I'm glad I know their music on a deeper level.
As far as posting on them 20 times in 5 weeks (including album reviews, covers & connections, flim & live clips, power rankings, on Andy Warhol, and breaking down a song), I'm honestly not sure how interesting or valuable it was to you as readers. In the blogging world, people don't really spend a lot of time on the same thing, so maybe I didn't retain a lot of people's interest. I also wonder how successful an extensive look at a band that stopped recording more than 40 years ago was. Do people care? Was it insightful? Did I make people want to hear the band that they hadn't before, did I rekindle interest in those that hadn't in awhile, or did I satisy the hardcore fans? For the most part, I don't get the sense that people really care that much about older music, at least when they are spending time reading blogs online. If true, that is unfortunate, especially when the Covers & Connections posts begin to portray how the music is still important to contemporary musicians.
Anyways, I'd be curious for some feedback. I don't regret doing it, and the approach of exploring a topic deeply and writing about it often was something I wanted to do, as it is an approach I like. I just wonder how much appeal it has. It'll be a few months before I try something like this again, and it would probably be with a newer band. Or maybe I'd break it up more. Not sure exactly. So if you have any feedback on this feature, I'd love to hear it. Any particular things you liked? What didn't you like? Was it boring? Interesting? Too much? Not enough? Was the band too old? Did you care about the band before or since? What would I want to consider if I were going to examine a band in detail in the future? Really anything you have to say, I'd love to hear it.
Whatever your thoughts, thanks for reading!