500 Greatest Albums
Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others
13. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico
“We were trying to do a Phil Spector thing with as few instruments as possible,” John Cale, the classically trained pianist and viola player of the Velvet Underground, once said of this record. It was no idle boast. Much of what we take for granted in rock would not exist without this New York band or its seminal debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico: the androgynous sexuality of glitter; punk’s raw noir; the blackened-riff howl of grunge and noise rock. It is a record of fearless breadth and lyric depth. Singer-songwriter Lou Reed documented carnal desire and drug addiction with a pop wisdom he learned as a song-factory composer for Pickwick Records. Cale introduced the power of pulse and drone (from his work in early minimalism); guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker played with tribal force; Nico, a German vocalist briefly added to the band by manager Andy Warhol, brought an icy femininity to the heated ennui in Reed’s songs. Rejected as nihilistic by the love crowd in ’67, the Banana Album (so named for its Warhol-designed cover), is the most prophetic rock album ever made.