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The Velvet Underground and Nico: Anti-modern rock and roll

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The 1960's.
    1. Mainstream popular culture of the 60's.
    2. Two landmark albums.
  3. The world of The Velvet Underground and Nico.
  4. The songs in the album.
    1. Sunday Morning.
    2. Waiting for the Man.
    3. Femme Fatale.
    4. Venus in Furs.
    5. Run Run Run.
    6. All Tomorrow's Parties.
    7. Heroin.
    8. There She Goes Again.
  5. The chaotic and aurally anarchic conclusion.

That banana, it's the single image appearing on the cover of The Velvet Underground and Nico, one of the most influential albums of all time, accompanied only by the teasing phrase ?peel slowly and see? at the top and artist Andy Warhol's name at the bottom. On the original album sleeve for vinyl, the ?peel? wasn't just a tease, and could in fact be removed to expose a curiously pink-colored fruit underneath. A visually phallic symbol hiding a traditionally feminine color-symbol underneath. An example of ?pop? art appearing on the cover of an album of ostensibly ?pop? music. The signature of an artist giving credibility to the debut of a rock and roll band. A banana. For any of the handful of people who actually bought the album when it came out in 1967, the banana was the first association they made with the Velvet Underground's official body of work. What was the significance? Was there any significance? Perhaps an exploration of the culture of the times could provide insight to these dumbfounding questions.

[...] The smashed guitar at the end of the song, and therefore the album, is The Velvet Underground and Nico's final statement. Throughout the course of an album, the Velvet Underground rejects the dominant cultures of their time; most interestingly, however, is that they use the dominant cultural structure?rock and roll?in order to make this rejection. When the guitar is completely destroyed, it is not only evident that they have established this rejection, but also the rejection of the structure of rock and roll itself, and along with it, all other aspects of modern life attributed only to their particular time. [...]


[...] Unlike albums like those of the Beatles or the Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground and Nico took very little time to record and was more of a necessity to preserve their songs rather than the result of sonic experimentation and exploring technical possibilities. The Velvet Underground had previously been known as a Warhol-affiliated live band, revered by some and notorious to the rest; recording an album was the next logical step in the presentation of the band. The opening track to the resulting album is ?Sunday Morning,? the closest to contemporary-sounding pop music that Lou Reed gets on the album. [...]


[...] Instead of siding with one end of the situation, the song ultimately expresses that the entire situation itself is ridiculous?the people with unreasonable expectations of the girl are shallow and the girl is ?Sunday's clown, for whom none will go mourning.? In fact, it is the girl who tries to enter the life of a socialite who gets the harshest treatment; the last lyrics of the song refer to blackened shroud, a hand-me-down gown of rags and silks? as being a ?costume fit for one who sits and cries for all tomorrow's parties.? Modern society is so looked down upon in the realm of The Velvet Underground and Nico that striving to enter it rather than striving to escape it is a worse offense than being the oppressing forces itself. [...]

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