“If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,
I’d put you in the mirror,
I put in front of me.”
When I first started writing about music, I seemed to have one band on my mind all the time- The Velvet Underground, and it’s pretty obvious. They’ve been a band I have always fallen back on. A band that I listen to pretty much every single day. And if I’m not listening to them, I’m listening to Lou Reed. I think one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done was not go see him when he played back home, on the Isle of Man. Add that to a list of my poor decisions. I’ve made some good ones. I’ve made more good than bad. The Velvet Underground have always felt like a band that I couldn’t believe existed. What I mean by this is, I find it hard to believe a band so great could ever have been around. What on earth did we ever do to deserve such a perfect band?
I like to go through old records and write about them, there’s no reason behind it and sometimes I find it easier to do this than write about a current band. A few years ago I went and wrote about every single record by The Cure. Every single one. It was partly down to me not being able to sleep/scared to go to sleep and having nothing to do, but also because I love The Cure. I’ve covered The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed a lot, but I’ve never written about their 1969 self-titled release. It’s a Saturday night, I have a migraine that’s slowly fading- what else is there to do?
This record is my favourite by them. It always has been and if I ever sat down and listed my favourite records of all time, I am fairly sure that this would be in my top 5, probably top 3. I remember for a long time I was obsessed with playing Pale Blue Eyes. The person that it reminded me of didn’t have pale blue eyes. She’s got beautiful green eyes. But you find meaning wherever you can. It was a song I couldn’t listen to for a time, but then it all fixed and I was back to being obsessed with the song again. If I could sing and I was in a band, I’d cover this at every show. The lyrics are the kind I wish I could write, but nothing I or anyone else does can come close to it. It’s sad. Utterly sad but so beautiful.
Candy Says is another that holds a wealth of sadness, but the sadness it mixed with vulnerability. It’s a song that no matter what, I’ve always been able to relate to. Regardless of how I am feeling, it’s just been a song that I’ve always gone back to and found a home in. it just says everything I probably don’t have the guts to say. I’ve always had a place reserved for this line, “What do you think I’d see if I could walk away from me?” Nothing really matters when you listen to this song, or the whole record really.
This is a record that I have always played in order. What I usually do is play something in order the first few times, then after that it’s in whatever order I feel like. With this record I’ve always had to play it in the exact order from start to finish. There’s no reason behind it, but it doesn’t feel right I suppose, to play it any other way. It doesn’t just sum up my ideas of New York, but it sums up how I feel about music and what I look for in a record. I want something that has sort of smutty yet clever lyrics, something that’ll make me think, something that will be some form of escape and encouragement. A record that just takes me up and away. There’s no comedown from this record, and that’s why it is easily one of the greatest records of all time. It’s got this thing about it that I mentioned about The Velvet Underground in general, like you can’t believe something like this actually exists and you can hold this piece of perfection in your hands and have it echoing in your ears whenever you wish.
I don’t think there will ever come a time where Lou’s words aren’t important to me, and with this record I fell more in love with his song writing and his captivating way with words. I have no idea how much thought he ever put into how he put words together, but he always made it seem so effortless. They’re the ones that tower about the rest like Nick Cave, Patti Smith, and Morrissey. They’re the ones I’ve always gone to and will always go to. I don’t know how well this record was received when it came out and I’ve never really paid any attention to what anyone thinks of it now, but I just know that for me, it’s my favourite record by the band. I love how gentle it is and how tender the lyrics are. I’m Set Free is one of those songs you play when everything seems a bit uneasy and you have no idea what you’re supposed to do. It has this instant ethereal build up to it, and you can feel your heart race as it builds and builds. It’s a song that will make everything make more sense. It’s a solution to any problem. I’ll always advocate listening to The Velvet Underground as a solution to all problems.
Some records just stay with you. You may not remember when you first heard it, but the feeling you first got is always there. Every single time you go back to it is like hearing the band for the first time. I’ve always felt that way about The Velvet Underground. It’s a feeling that hits you in the stomach, takes over your mind and owns your heart.