What are your favorite songs by The Velvet Underground?

velvetundergroundI’m not really a huge fan of ranking things. It’s mostly because I don’t like to make declarations about what things are better than another, because who am I to decide that, and there’s always someone out there more qualified to make those declarations than me.

I do like to discuss personal favorites with people though, which is why I’ve been popping up with these lists of songs here and there and doing it from the perspective of personal favorites rather than declaring that one song is better than the other. To me, that’s actually two different things; I may know that a certain song is better than the other, but I may just personally like the other better.

So far, I’ve done The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Next up, we’ll do the band some feel may be the greatest American rock band of all time, or at least the most influential — The Velvet Underground.

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The Velvet Underground has pulled off the remarkable feat of being eternally fresh and eternally cool. It’s hard to envision a situation where they’re not either of those things. It’s still incredible today to think of the band’s debut The Velvet Underground & Nico in the context of the time it was released and how different it was than anything out there.

Here’s my list of personal favorites from The Velvet Underground. Weigh in with your favorites in the comments or on the Rocknuts forum, or if by some chance you aren’t into the band, you can use this list as a primer.

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13. Sunday Morning (from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

This has become a bittersweet track considering how Velvet Underground genius Lou Reed died on a Sunday morning, but it’s a lovely opening to a classic album.

12. There She Goes Again (from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

“There she goes again/She’s out on the streets again/She’s down on her knees, my friend/But you know she’ll never ask you please again” — yup, that’s Velvet Underground & Nico subject matter alright. It’s also just a really catchy song.

11. Who Loves The Sun (from Loaded)

An easygoing song about heartbreak that is hard to resist. Atlantic Records requested that the album Loaded be “loaded with hits,” so like other songs on the album, “Who Loves The Sun” was created with the intention of it being a hit single.

10. Candy Says (from The Velvet Underground)

This song portrays the point of view of late transgender actress Candy Darling. Very gentle and soothing song that is easy to like.

9. Stephanie Says (from V.U.)

Originally available only as a bootleg, this song was eventually released as part of the excellent 1985 outtakes album V.U. The song also appeared in the film The Royal Tennenbaums.

8. Rock & Roll (from Loaded) This song brilliantly sums up the spirit of what rock music can mean to people.

Jenny said when she was just five years old
My parents are gonna be the death of us all
Two TV sets and two Cadillac cars–
Ain’t gonna help us at all

Then one fine mornin’ she puts on a New York station
She don’t believe what she heard at all
She started dancin’ to that fine fine music
You know her life was saved by Rock ‘n’ Roll

7. I’m Waiting for the Man (from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

An example of the groundbreaking subject matter of this album, “I’m Waiting for the Man” is a brilliant portrayal of someone traveling to Harlem to purchase drugs from their drug dealer. It’s still impactful today.

6. Foggy Notion (from V.U.)

This is just a really catchy, hard-to-resist song that definitely ranks as one of the best lesser-known songs of the band. Definitely one of my favorites from them.

5. Sweet Jane (from Loaded)

Would it be blasphemy to say I actually might like the Cowboy Junkies’ cover ever so slightly better? I guess I kinda do… but this is still one of The Velvet Underground’s truly great songs.

4. Venus in Furs (from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

Man. This song… So freaky, so trippy, so dark, so demented, so good. I’m not sure if it’s the first song about S&M but I’m guessing it’s probably the best. Maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I dig it.

3. Pale Blue Eyes (from The Velvet Underground)

Easily one of the Velvets’ signature songs, and one of the most covered. It’s instantly likable… and haunting. It also has some of the most memorable lyrics of any Velvet Underground song:

It was good what we did yesterday
And I’d do it once again
The fact that you are married
Only proves, you’re my best friend
But it’s truly, truly a sin

2. Heroin (from The Velvet Underground & Nico)

As is probably the case with many people, “Heroin” was my introduction to The Velvet Underground, and it’s just as powerful today as ever (the song, that is). There haven’t been many — if any — songs written about drug use better than this one. The lyric “It’s my life/And it’s my wife” sums up addiction about as succinctly as you can. It’s just an amazing and creepy rock song.

1. Lisa Says (from V.U.)

Maybe this is kind of an unorthodox choice for a favorite song by this band, but I’ve always loved this song. I think it’s pretty much perfect, and that first verse is certainly an attention-grabber:

Lisa says that it’s all right
When she meets me alone at night
Lisa says that she has her fun
And she’ll do it with just about anyone

I think everything hits a high level on this song, lyrically and musically.

What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on the Rocknuts forums!

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4 comments to “What are your favorite songs by The Velvet Underground?”
  1. brilliant list, man. you touched all the bases. pop and rock and r&b and avante-garde all stuffed into the same pipe.

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