Episode 164 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "White Light/White Heat" and the career of the Velvet Underground. This is a long one, lasting three hours and twenty minutes. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.
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Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/
I say the Velvet Underground didn't play New York for the rest of the sixties after 1966. They played at least one gig there in 1967, but did generally avoid the city. Also, I refer to Cale and Conrad as the other surviving members of the Theater of Eternal Music. Sadly Conrad died in 2016.
No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by the Velvet Underground, and some of the avant-garde pieces excerpted run to six hours or more.
I used a lot of resources for this one. Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga is the best book on the group as a group. I also used Joe Harvard's 33 1/3 book on The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Bockris also wrote one of the two biographies of Reed I referred to, Transformer. The other was Lou Reed by Anthony DeCurtis.
Information on Cale mostly came from Sedition and Alchemy by Tim Mitchell.
Information on Nico came from Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts.
I used Draw a Straight Line and Follow it by Jeremy Grimshaw as my main source for La Monte Young, The Roaring Silence by David Revill for John Cage, and Warhol: A Life as Art by Blake Gopnik for Warhol.
I also referred to the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of the 2021 documentary The Velvet Underground.
The definitive collection of the Velvet Underground's music is the sadly out-of-print box set Peel Slowly and See, which contains the four albums the group made with Reed in full, plus demos, outtakes, and live recordings. Note that the digital version of the album as sold by Amazon for some reason doesn't include the last disc -- if you want the full box set you have to buy a physical copy. All four studio albums have also been released and rereleased many times over in different configurations with different numbers of CDs at different price points -- I have used the "45th Anniversary Super-Deluxe" versions for this episode, but for most people the standard CD versions will be fine. Sadly there are no good shorter compilation overviews of the group -- they tend to emphasise either the group's "pop" mode or its "avant-garde" mode to the exclusion of the other.
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Before I begin this episode, there are a few things to say. This introductory section is going to be longer than normal because, as you will hear, this episode is also going to be longer than normal.
Firstly, I try to warn people about potentially upsetting material in these episodes. But this is the first episode for 1968, and as you will see there is a *profound* increase in the amount of upsetting and disturbing material covered as we go through 1968 and 1969. The story is going to be in a much darker place for the next twenty or thirty episodes.
And this episode is no exception. As always, I try to deal with everything as sensitively as possible, but you should be aware that the list of warnings for this one is so long I am very likely to have missed some. Among the topics touched on in this episode are mental illness, drug addiction, gun violence, racism, societal and medical homophobia, medical mistreatment of mental illness, domestic abuse, rape, and more. If you find discussion of any of those subjects upsetting, you might want to read the tra