White Light/White Heat

It’s Friday the 13th and the world gets crazier by the day. So, lets have some music, in the shape of the Velvet Underground’s second album, ‘White Light/White Heat’, which was released in 1968. ‘White Light/White Heat’ is not an easy one, folks. With it’s wall of chaotic sound, ‘White Light/White Heat’ is a bit like having your tongue sand papered. People seem to either love or hate this album. One reason people hate it is because it’s quite different from the Velvet’s debut album in 1967, called ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ and often hailed as one of the most influential albums of all time, but at the time ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ was a commercial failure. The Velvets ditched Nico and their manager, Andy Warhol, and after extensive touring went into the studio in 1968 and turned up the amps, in both senses of the word. This is the title track from the album, White Light/White Heat

Incidentally, the sound quality on all these tracks is not going to be good, because the sound quality on the original album is appalling, even for back in the 1960s. I wouldn’t advise listening to this album with headphones.

Some would argue that ‘White Light/White Heat’ is the only true Velvet Underground album, since it’s the only one that has the four original members of the band: Lou Reed, John Cale, Stirling Morrison and Maureen Tucker on drums. John Cale left the Velvet Underground shortly after the album was made. This next track is called Lady Godiva’s Operation, and is about a transsexual’s botched labotomy operation…

There are just four tracks on the first side of ‘White Light/White Heat’. The fourth track is called Here She Comes Now and it’s the only mellow song on the album. It’s as though the Velvets were giving the listener a break before the sensory assault that is side two of the album…

Side two of ‘White Light/White Heat’ has just two tracks. The first track is called I Heard Her Call My Name. It’s a loud and aggressive song which features a pair of intentionally out of tune guitar solos with repeated use of feedback that makes your eyes water. The second and final track on side two of the album is called Sister Ray. Lou Reed named the song as a nod to Ray Davis of The Kinks. Sister Ray is seventeen and a half minutes long. It’s an improvisational piece that was done in one take. Legend has it that the sound engineer walked out during the recording, because of the racket that the Velvets were making. Lou Reed’s lyrics tell the tale of sailors and transvestites having a heroin-fueled orgy. Someone gets shot and the police are called. Sister Ray is probably the Velvet Underground’s finest moment. I dare you to listen to all seventeen and a half minutes of it…

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