Album no. 104/1001
The second (and best) Velvet Underground album! Featuring the frenetic songs of Lou Reed, the dulcet Welsh speaking voice of John Cale, and seventeen minutes of the whole band giving it everything. Yes please.
Nico is gone, and so is Andy Warhol, who the Velvets fired prior to this album. The result is an album that doesn’t fit neatly into any genre boundaries while maintaining the hypnotic schizophrenia of their debut. Get around it.
Have you listened to this album before?
NK: You are goddamn right I have.
CL: No – the only Velvet Underground I’d heard before this was their first one.
NK: YOU ARE IN FOR A TREAT.
NK: There are six tracks, and I am going to rank them one to six..
- White light/white heat
- Sister Ray
- The Gift
- Lady Godiva’s Operation
- Here She Comes Now
- I Heard Her Call My Name
Just a heads-up: ‘I Heard Her Call My Name’ is still pretty good. This is my favourite Velvet Underground album.
CL: ‘The Gift’ IS AMAZING. ‘Sister Ray’ is AMAZING. ALL OF THE SONGS ON THIS ARE AMAZING. For the first time EVER, I don’t care that the song goes for 17 minutes. What a bloody journey. If you give any song a go from this album, it has to be ‘The Gift’.
NK: The odd track here is ‘Here She Comes Now’, which is basically a normal song. It’s still good, but on this album that really stands out.
When would be the best time to listen to this?
NK: If you’re into Welsh accents, get around ‘The Gift’. It’s old leeky mate John Cale reading a Lou Reed short story, and boy does he sound Welsh. This is the last Velvet Underground album to feature Cale. Lou Reed kicked him out because apparently he wanted to recorded the next album with the amplifiers underwater and Lou was not having it. If you’re thinking ‘what a shame’ YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT.
CL: It’s a weirdly aggressive album. Like, it’s not an easy listen, so probably don’t put it on at a casual party. Unless you’re at the sort of party where everyone else might enjoy it. In which case, go right ahead!
Why has this album been included on the list?
NK: Is this a trick question? It features a short story (read by a Welshman) about a guy who posts himself to his college girlfriend and accidentally gets stabbed in the head. It has a seventeen minute noise-rock track about (I think?) a transvestite orgy. The rhythm section drones on, the guitars go for your throat, the vocals (particularly on ‘Lady Godiva’s Operation’) jump up and down with no regard for how jarring they might sound, and song length varies from 2.04 to 17.27. This is one of the best albums of the 60’s.
CL: This record is so different from their first release. The Velvet Underground and Nico was pretty schizophrenic – there were the few gentle, melodic tracks and the brash, raucous ones – but this album totally turns around and covers everything in a thick fuzz and a layer of aggression.
Will you be listening again?
NK: Best believe.
CL: Absolutely yes. This is SO my jams, and it makes sense – ‘Sister Ray’ was covered by everyone from the Buzzcocks to Joy Division. MY JAMS.
Listen to White Light/White Heat on Spotify or buy it in iTunes.