This Album Changed My Life: The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

Singer Wendy James on a band that was ‘beautiful, anti-social and incredibly musical’

Wendy James on The Velvet Underground and Nico: ‘The band taught me how to write a pop song with as much sneering, insouciant naivety as Lou Reed.’

Wendy James on The Velvet Underground and Nico: ‘The band taught me how to write a pop song with as much sneering, insouciant naivety as Lou Reed.’

 

The first time I ever heard their first album The Velvet Underground and Nico was in a bedsit with Nicholas Christian Sayer, the guitarist and my musical partner in our band Transvision Vamp.

The band were beautiful, anti-social, incredibly musical and the zeitgeist of downtown NYC in the 1960s and a part of Andy Warhol’s Factory scene. The band were Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison (later Doug Yule) and Mo Tucker plus the extra attraction of the beautiful Germanic stoic blonde Nico. The tracklisting is a bona fide feast of perfect anti-pop songwriting.

Forever instinctually recognised, inherently understood and engrained in my soul, the band taught me how to write a pop song with as much sneering, insouciant naivety as Lou Reed.

One of the all-time masters of songwriting ever and indeed production because while it may sound simple or straightforward, the feel with which The Velvets play is as a complex, edgy and beyond the reach of most musicians can ever know.

This album matters because it is always going to be on the right side of “F**k you!” with its attitude, beauty, skill and sound.

– In conversation with Niall Byrne

Wendy James plays Tipp Classical on September 20th/21st in Thurles Stadium, Tipperary. See tippclassical.com. 

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