Monday, June 28, 2010

Daily Nugget #10: The Velvet Underground, "The Gift" (mono instrumental)

The Velvet Underground were a jam band. Not, perhaps, in the same category as your Phishes or String Cheeses, but they jammed and jammed—anyone who loves the 1969 Live album or the even jammier Quine Tapes (featuring several half-hour versions of "Sister Ray") already knows this. So in addition to inventing alternative rock, goth, industrial, dream pop, and so many other sub-niche genres, they also proved that New York noise, applied to simple r'n'b chord changes, could create the same sort of hypnotic grooves their hippy contemporaries were tripping to in the psychedelic ballrooms of San Francisco.

The Velvets' second record, White Light/White Heat (1968), is their darkest, noisiest, ugliest record, with sludgy jams, drugged out and creepy lyrics. There's beauty in the ugly, though, and for proof I submit today's daily nugget. The second track of the record, "The Gift", featured a novel experiment: One channel features John Cale narrating the tragic tale of Waldo Jeffers (a short story written by Mr. Sunshine, Lou Reed); the other channel is a groovy instrumental (originally entitled "Booker T" after the Memphis r'n'b great) with slash-and-burn guitars dueling it out. If you got tired of the story (and, to be honest, most will only need to hear it a few times), you could pan your speakers hard right and just hear the instrumental, but only through one speaker. I've always hoped that the original track of the band working their magic in stereo would surface, but until then, here's the instrumental track converted to mono (with special thanks to Google and Audacity).

Hint: Go ahead and turn this one all the way up. Also, The Quine Tapes are about to be reissued on vinyl by the good people at Sundazed.

The Velvet Underground, "The Gift" [mono instrumental]:

1 comment:

  1. No. To characterise them as a jam band is to reduce them to one thing and miss the many other things they were. Plus the good time rock and roll jamming of later period VU and the Cale era material like Sister Ray have little in common.