It’s widely known the impact The Velvet Underground had on modern music – a band well ahead of its time – not surprising, the influence continues to grow with each new decade. In the last couple of years alone, The Velvets have been subject to a slew of new releases: Sundazed Records’ cool 7” (The Singles 1966-1969) box set and reissues of the band’s LPs on 180 Gram Vinyl. Also in the mix are a few new books: “The Velvet Underground: New York Art”; “The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side”; “The Rough Guide to the Velvet Underground (Rough Guide Reference)” and just recently released “White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day”.
In recent years there have been published day-by-day accounts on The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Monkees, and a host of others. White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day by Richie Unterberger (who also wrote a fantastic two part history of 60’s folk rock: “Turn! Turn! Turn!: The ’60s Folk-Rock Revolution” and “Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock’s Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock”) is an instantly essential book for your collection that covers the Velvets activities from 1958-2007. Through the course of 300 plus pages, Unterberger compiles a plethora of interesting tidbits on everything VU. Beginning with pre band events – including information about Nico’s first forays as a recording artist. The most notable is with the Serge Gainsbourg produced demo track “Strip-Tease” and her “I’m Not Saying” single release on Immediate Records. In between are cool facts scattered throughout the book – Lou Reed’s first single with The Shades – John Cale’s rare September 16, 1963 TV appearance on CBS’s live game show “I’ve Got A Little Secret” and even Sterling Morrison’s English Literature education at City College of New York.
In each section there are detailed notes/timelines of recording sessions and live show dates. The Velvet Underground didn’t tour in the traditional sense until 1968, so it’s a real treat to get audience accounts of the various early gigs. The first “definite” Velvet Underground concert was at Sunset High School auditorium in Summit, NJ on December 11, 1965 (opening for garage rockers The Myddle Class) – “where the band just emptied that auditorium”. Another detailed account was their first West Coast performance – a scheduled three night stand (which only made it to two nights – with the police closing things down) at the Trip on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, where Frank Zappa reportedly stated he hated the Velvet Underground. The book even recalls the final documented 1971 Netherlands performance of the last Velvet Underground line-up that included at Maureen Tucker (by that time the band also featured Doug Yule, Willie Alexander, and Walter Powers).
Along with countless VU history, you are treated to reproductions of various handbills, news clippings, concert posters, promotional ads, rare/unseen photos of the band and great trivia. One interesting section was about a group of U.S. Vietnam War soldiers who put together a band called The Electrical Banana. They recorded “There She Goes Again”, the first known Velvet Underground cover. The recording was later reissued and made available on a 2001 Norfolk, Virginia compilation “Aliens, Pychos & Wild Things, Vol. 1”.
“White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day” claims the tag: “the most comprehensive, immensely detailed work about one of the most influential bands in the history of rock” – it indeed lives up to that statement. It’s well done, providing insight into one of the foremost bands of the last century.
I’m Waiting For The Man