White Light/White Heat
Verve Records, 1967
REVIEW BY: Eric E5S16
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/25/2000
Lou Reed had his beginnings in the late 1960s with The Velvet Underground, a band that was not only psychedelic rock, but they would later be a foundation in what would be called Punk Rock in the 1970s. White Light/White Heat, released in 1968, defines unusual psychedelic rock and noise.
The title track "White Light/White Heat" has the mixture of psychedelic rock and punk. "The Gift" is a spoken word story, based on the characters Waldo and Marsha. Reed narrates the story, heard on the left speaker (in a thick British accent), with psychedelic music heard on the right.
Waldo and Marsha had been separated due to Marsha's infidelity. As time went by, Marsha had been faithful, and Waldo was thinking about Marsha again. He wanted to surprise her by sending himself in a box by mail as the "gift." When the gift arrives, Marsha and a friend find it difficult to open. They use numerous methods to open the gift, while Waldo waits inside the box. Exhausted, Marsha takes a break, while Marsha's friend takes a long blade and uses it to open the box. Unfortunately, as she shoves the blade in the box, the blade is also inserted into Waldo's head. This song is best heard using headphones, by slipping off the right-sided speaker off your head, so you can easily hear the left-sided speaker and this bizarre story.
"Lady Godiva's Operation" is another venture into psychedelic rock. "Here She Comes Now" has a bouncy pop style, yet it's vocals makes it another addition into mellow psychedelia. "I Heard Her Call My Name" rocks into hard rock/psychedelic, as well as Animals-rock blues. It features just about every possible type of rock of the late Sixties: The blues rock of The Animals, psychedelic guitar as in Jimi Hendrix, and as a whole, it's psychedelic punk.
"Sister Ray," like the title track, is another psychedelic rock number, with its strange vocal and psychedelic stylings. This nearly 20-minute song is deep psychedelia, bizarre and "trippin'." (This one may be a little rough on the ears; again, it's strange.)
Strange is a good word to describe the Velvet Underground. Their music was not only psychedelic as in most rock groups at the time, yet their music was much harder than the average psychedelia; their music you could probably say was ahead of their time. Speaking of which, their music would later be categorized as punk, as they would be major influences to many of the popular punk rock groups that would later surface in the 1970s. Their music can easily be compared to such acts as Patti Smith and the early years of David Bowie.
For the 1960s psychedelic rock fan, the Velvet Underground will achieve interest. The Velvet Underground's music takes a while to digest, yet their music has been a major influence to many. They never became a household name as, say a Jimi Hendrix or Jefferson Airplane. The band's lead singer, Reed, would have an interesting solo career, just as interesting as his music was achieved when he was in the group before him, The Velvet Underground. His trademark solo song, "Walk On The Wild Side" would become a classic, both musically and lyrically. "Sex, Drugs And Rock & Roll" was sung in Reed's music, mostly drugs with the Velvet Underground ("Heroin"), and sex in "Walk On The Wild Side." (How many people tried to figure out what he was singing about when he sang: "But she never lost her head, even when she's giving head" ???)
Even today, after listening to Reed's music, as in White Light/White Heat, some people are still trying to figure what Reed was, and still is, singing about. The answers are: social alienation, sexual deviancy, drug addiction, violence, and hopelessness. (Best defined from ROLLING STONE Encyclopedia Of Rock and Roll)