I decided to wait until I finally had an early press of this before commiting it to the annals. Reviewing anything other than an original peelable banana sleeve just seemed criminal, as if something was missing from the experience.
I finally found an 'affordable' copy on returning from my holidays. In fairness I had seen it before waving at me from the racks, slightly too expensive and with an unfortunate case of spine wear creeping at least three inches from the base to just below the title writing. I could just about see past the fact that the top of the banana has seperated about 20mm down and that the print at the edges is dulling but the spine, something I am particularly anal about always put me off until now.
After much 'umming and ah-ing' I got enough discount to convince me to give it a home and now here it is, sat in the place of the non gate-fold early 80's repress that had tarnisned it's surroundings for so long.
I need to try and put this record into perspective. Without even touching on the music, mentioning the players or the cultural significance of the sound inside this is in my mind one of the most iconic (and I hate that fucking word) record sleeves in the history of popular music. I wont bore you with a list of the others (not today at least) as I am sure you are more than familiar with the rarely changing usual suspects.
The sleeve to Velvet Underground and Nico record legitimate art, regardless of the fact it comes from one of the 20th centuries more over-rated artists it signifies a time and a place so utterly important to the shape of popular music that even now I am excited about the prospect of listening to and owning it. The sleeve image is synonymous with Western popular culture, a virtual swastika for a generation of the musically obsessed. From the previously mentioned peelable banana gimmick front sleeve signed by the artist to the informative gatefold, showing the moodiest bunch of motherfuckers this side of the Catholic church to the back sleeve - A blurred shot of the band, a perfect visual for the track 'Herion'.
And what about the music? Despite it being obvious to cite and as played out as Nirvana's 'Nevermind' album to the power of ten, whored out as the sound tracks to car adverts and other such worthless flotsam it remains captivating in a way that very few other records manage...
Sunday Morning, the opener is a fucking perfect song, perfect, there isn't a note or nuance I would change on it. The same can be said for the whole of side 1, 'Waiting for My Man', 'Femme Fetale', 'Venus in Furs', 'All Tomorrows Parties'... but not 'Run, Run, Run' which I always think sounds like second rate boogie-woogie filler that should have been left on the studio floor. Read that list back to yourself, I know it's obvious but lets just for a second try to something other than controversial. With the exception of one track I just read out five of the greatest songs ever written.
I wont waste my time or yours describing the actual music, you all know it, equal parts self consciously cool and too fucked up to give a fuck it succeeds where both the Stones and Beatles (the VUs only credible competition in 'Best record of all time' lists') fail in being effortlessly cool, a smug silent self-satisfied smile in the general direction of the pouting lips of Jagger and screaming girls storming the stage at Shea.
On to side 2. 'Heroin' is immense, they all are, each song through to 'European Son', there is little point in listing them as the chances are that anyone who might read this has at least one copy of this record. There is a reason that it took me so long to buy anything else the VU did beyond this album, I was living under the false impression that because this was so good they couldn't have possibly come near it with later offerings. It is hard to believe that this record was total utter and complete flop on its release, a failure of near biblical proportions when here I am 42, nearly 43 years later actually contemplating masturbating over it.