The Velvet Underground & Nico

ISBN: 0826415504
ISBN 13: 9780826415509
By: Joe Harvard

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About this book

The Velvet Underground and Nico has influenced the sound of more bands than 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. EXCERPTIn 1966, some studios, like Abbey Road, had technicians in white lab coats, and even the less formal studios usually had actual engineering graduates behind the consoles. 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 conform 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 from wardrobe to musical style, 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.

Reader's Thoughts

Elliot Chalom

The back cover states "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." That's a perfectly apt description of what this solid if unspectacular entry in the 33-1/3 canon does. Harvard gives a detailed and comprehensive "making of" the album in a short but rich 145 pages. However, despite the fact that he admittedly finds it to be one of the greatest albums ever made, one which stands the test of time, he approaches the material unemotionally. The book is devoid of the passion you'd expect from a music enthusiast. I appreciate his objectivity and his reporter-like way of writing, but while I may in be in the minority I'd like to see a little less respect and a little more pure joy/love. Nevertheless, I'm glad I read the book and I appreciate each member of the Velvets more for having read it.

Jacqueline Valencia



Joe Harvard:The miniscule tattoo I got in 1979 caused a family furor, with dark rumblings about bikers and convicts; when my niece recently acquired skin art that would impress most Yakuza and bring a smile to the lips of a Maori headhunter, nary a peep was uttered. American culture moves so fast it's more a verb than a noun.Well, that's good stuff and this cute li'l book makes a pretty good job of accounting for one of the great albums of our time, released in the year of the summer of love and how appropriate - these tales of junkies, masochists and all the rest of Lou Reed's charm school graduates are a pleasing corrective to the chanting god-botherers in the people's parks. I only found out about this record because critics, derided aesthetes though they may be, insisted that this was one of the all time great records. So I picked a copy up for a quid and I didn't like it. Very harsh, very nasty, and that Lou Reed, he can't sing worth shit. I can sing better than this fool. So after a year I liked two tracks and after a year another two and now I understand how great this album is. Critics are routinely derided and spat upon (as if we can't figure this stuff out ourselves - be off with you!) but often they have showed me the way through the maze. Lou Reed loved rock and roll and he loved James Joyce and he didn't see why you couldn't have both together at the same time. He didn't quite manage that feat but he came close.

Tanya Taylor

Joe Harvard does an incredible job of piecing together years of information about this album and the people who created it ~ his notes on the individual tracks will make old fans want to revisit the album in order to better appreciate the subtle details in each song. Can't believe I waited so long to read this gem.

Will Lynch

Joe Harvard completely gives in to the kind of senseless band-worship that often turns me of to rock journalism. He also assumes the reader already knows all the infamous rumors and legends about the Velvets, to which he makes ambiguous reference but does not retell (fairly presumptuous, considering the reader has chosen to buy a book about the Velvet Underground... do that many people really read multiple volumes on the band?) More than anything else, this just made me want to read "Please Kill Me" (a book for which Joe Harvard seems to have some kind of mysterious contempt).

Patrick Fisackerly

A really interesting little book that tells you pretty much everything you'd want to know about THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO, one of the greatest rock albums ever made. It's as much about Lou Reed as it is about Andy Warhol and the whole Factory subculture of the '60s, and that's fine with me. A good read.


So far--I'm not super impressed by this edition...but I'll weigh in more fully once it's done

Patrick Gibbs

Nice conversational piece on the VU's first album, the making of, and context for the environment in which it landed. Not exactly a behind the scenes look, but more of a pulling together of the many tales relating to the making of the album. Bonus points for going to Jonathan Richman as a source.

John Scott

I thoroughly enjoyed this bio of the great album. Short sharp and to the point.

Lydia Gurevich

Amazing, informative book about the greatest band of all time.

Erin Tuzuner

Detracts, more than enhances, the mythology of this seminal record.


A scam. You can get this stuff and much more from a million other sources.

B. Mason

Compared to other 33 1/3 books this one does not stand out. Unless you are a big VU fan it's hard to wade through the dry unimaginative writing.


"If I hadn't heard rock 'n' roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet.""All great art looks like it was made this morning." - Norman Dolph

Thom Foolery

I most appreciated two things about this book. One was that it got me to listen to this again (repeatedly) and confirm that it is indeed one of my favorite albums of all time. The other is that Joe Harvard explained the role of album producers in some detail, and in so doing made a convincing case that Andy Warhol, by virtue of his being hands-off and basically a shield against challenges to UV's artistic vision, was quite successful. Before reading this I'd just seen him as producer qua "the guy writing the checks."

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