The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico (33 1/3 Series)

Narrated by: Marc Vietor
Length: 3 hrs and 24 mins
4 out of 5 stars (35 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In 1966, studios were still more about science than art. Clients who dared make technical suggestions were treated with bemusement, derision or hostility. The Velvets were a young band under constant critical attack, and the pressure to confirm in order to gain acceptance must have been tremendous. Most bands of that era compromised with their record companies, through wholesale revamping of their image, changing or omitting lyrics, creating drastically edited versions for radio airplay, or eliminating songs entirely from their sets and records. With Andy Warhol in the band's corner, such threats were minimized.

The Velvet Underground and Nico has influenced the sound of more bands than almost any other album. And remarkably, it still sounds as fresh and challenging today as it did upon its release in 1967.

In this book, Joe Harvard covers everything from Lou Reed's lyrical genius to John Cale's groundbreaking instrumentation, and from the creative input of Andy Warhol to the fine details of the recording process. With input from co-producer Norman Dolph and Velvets fan Jonathan Richman, Harvard documents the creation of a record which, in the eyes of many, has never been matched.

Joe Harvard was co-founder and owner of Fort Apache Studios. Voted Boston's Best Producer, his playing appears on numerous records by bands including Dinosaur Jr., Throwing Muses, and the Pernice Brothers.

33 1/3 is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. Focusing on one album rather than an artist's entire output, the books dispense with the standard biographical background that fans know already, and cut to the heart of the music on each album. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music.

Rock on: listen to more of the 33 1/3 series.
©2004 Joe Harvard (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"'Today, the kind of lives deemed permissible for art to reflect upon seem more and more to resemble those that the Velvets explored in their songs,'" writes Joe Harvard, assessing the milieus surrounding the Velvet Underground's debut, virtually ignored upon release in 1967 and now considered a watershed statement. A Boston producer, Harvard brings a musician's perspective to evaluating song structures, album sonics and band chemistry, while balanced views on Nico and Andy Warhol's roles reinforce the record's cultural impact." ( The Chicago Tribune)
"Narrator Marc Vietor tackles Harvard's frank and often-explicit missive with an eager and edgy delivery, evoking the author's earlier years in upstart bands and placing the listener in the heart of the Lower East Side scene." ( AudioFile)
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Profile Image for Norma Miles
  • Norma Miles
  • 04-17-20

Chords, tones and textures or noise and garbage?

Since the latter half of the 1960s I've been a an enormous can of the Velvet Underground, was even privileged to have seen them play one time, and always marvelled that in an age when Rock was almost exclusively the domain of the male, the most exciting, driving, avant garde and rockiest of all the groups had a woman, not as token singer, but right there in the beating heart of the rhythm: the great Moe Tucker as the drummer.

I'm not a musician, nor technical expert. But I enjoyed Joe Harvard's short book about the album, The Velvet Underground with Nico, their first, and the one produced whilst still in Andy Warhol's Factory. The anecdotes were interesting, the quotes illuminating, the description of the track Heroin superb oh fascinating, and, best of all, it had me digging out my old records to play again, and again. And again. How did I let them gather dust for so !ong? And yes, they are as fresh and new as they were over half a century ago. For this alone, Harvard should get five stars.

This is the first in the 33 1/3 Series I have read. It was a short and easy listen, well narrated by Marc Victor, and, although I'm not sure if I will read any others, I do recommend this volume. But a word of advice: listen to the record before reading of you don't already know it.