The Velvet Underground MK2
Welcome to another week here at Iron Leg.
Though I’m sure it has come up in conversation here over the years, I should take a moment to reiterate the powerful impact that the music of the Velvet Underground had on me in the 80s.
While I was by and large immersed in the sounds of 60s garage, beat and psych, thanks to some slightly older/wiser folks in the NJ fanzine mafia, the Velvets entered my ears, rewired my head and never left.
This had a lot to do with the fact that by 1982, he influence of the VU (still largely unknown to us as anything but a line in Lou Reed’s CV) started to bubble up to the surface in the sounds of the blooming alternative culture, indirectly in the sounds that the new bands made, and directly by being namechecked in interviews and reviews.
I had already heard and dug a number of VU songs via Lou Reed’s ‘Rock and Roll Animal’ (a major spin with the high school heads) and Mitch Ryder and Detroit’s rocking cover of ‘Rock and Roll’, which oddly enough was the jingle for our local drag strip (no kidding, really).
When I finally put the pieces together and picked myself up copies of the first three VU albums – some reissues, some OG (which were easier to come by pre-interwebs) my brain was good and truly bent.
Not only did the Velvets sound (and look, and act) WAY ahead of their time, but the songs and performances ran the gamut from pop perfection to spellbinding avalanches of noise.
I finally came upon ‘Loaded’ fairly late in the game.
There are probably people out there who discount ‘Loaded’ because it lacks some of the NYC downtown grit/menace of the Verve albums, but they either haven’t really listened to the record, or did and missed the point.
There aren’t any blazing noise-fests on ‘Loaded’, but there weren’t on ‘The Velvet Underground’ (the first lp with Doug Yule) either.
‘Loaded’ may be a touch more lighthearted (just a touch, mind you…) or, dare I say, optimistic, but tonally the albums are texturally very similar, with all of the group’s earlier artsy confrontation removed and replaced with melancholic reflection.
The tune I bring you today is the only 45 released from ‘Loaded’ here in the US, and it’s a promo at that. There were two other singles released from ‘Loaded’ but they were only issued in the UK & Germany (Sweet Jane b/w Rock and Roll) and France (Head Held High b/w Train Round the Bend).
‘Who Loves the Sun’, with authorship credited to the band and lead vocals by Doug Yule is the closest thing to an upbeat pop song that the VU ever laid down.
There are moments, especially when the group harmonies come in on the ‘bah bah bahhhh’ section of the chorus where you might be forgiven for thinking you were listening to another band entirely.
There might be a lot of daylight between something like ‘European Son’ and ‘Who Loves the Sun’, but by 1970 the Velvet Underground were a very different band, and the song sounds of a piece with the rest of the album.
Producer Geoff Haslam would go on the following year to produce the MC5’s final album ‘High Time’.
It is a very groovy song indeed, and if you haven’t explored the later end of the VU discography, I would suggest you do so, since there is a lot to dig.
I hope you like the song, and I’ll see you all next week.