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The Velvet Underground & Nico (33⅓ #11)

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  522 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
The Velvet Underground and Nico has influenced the sound of more bands than any other album. And remarkably, it still sounds as fresh and challenging today as it did upon its release in 1967. In this book, Joe Harvard covers everything from Lou Reed's lyrical genius to John Cale's groundbreaking instrumentation, and from the creative input of Andy Warhol to the fine detail ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published March 31st 2004 by Bloomsbury Academic
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11th out of 114 books — 47 voters
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Rory's Book Club
121st out of 171 books — 87 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,985)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 22, 2010 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Joe Harvard:

The miniscule tattoo I got in 1979 caused a family furor, with dark rumblings about bikers and convicts; when my niece recently acquired skin art that would impress most Yakuza and bring a smile to the lips of a Maori headhunter, nary a peep was uttered. American culture moves so fast it's more a verb than a noun.

Well, that's good stuff and this cute li'l book makes a pretty good job of accounting for one of the great albums of our time, released in the year of the summer of love and
May 24, 2008 Drew rated it really liked it
So hey, this book was really good. It has thus far been my opinion that the books in this series that stay away from straightforward writing about the album they're dealing with are more memorable and enjoyable, but this book turns that opinion on its head. And by the way, that's not to say that I haven't enjoyed the more straightforward installments that I've read--in fact, I thought Andrew Hultkrans's take on Love's "Forever Changes" was damned good. But Harvard's "Velvet Underground And Nico" ...more
Paul Austin
Apr 07, 2008 Paul Austin rated it liked it
Author Joe Harvard is a musician himself; he’s also perfected his studio tan by spending the better part of three decades producing and engineering at various recording studios, including Boston’s storied Fort Apache, which he founded. Prominent on Harvard’s website is a photo of him at some bar gig or other, buck naked except for a Flying V guitar. Is this really the kind of person you want penning a Velvet Underground book, given the Velvets erudition — a band influenced more by John Cage and ...more
Dragan Nanic
Aug 03, 2015 Dragan Nanic rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 33-1-3
This book manages to capture the best thing about 33 1/3 series - inspiring reader to listen the album again exposing other interesting music and facts along the way. It also brought back memories of my high school and the very first time I heard the Velvet Underground and Nico.
I liked the style - it has that raw edge that corresponds well with the actual music. However, the form (settings around the record first and description of the songs later) dulls it a bit. It would be much more effectiv
Patrick McCoy
Sep 28, 2011 Patrick McCoy rated it liked it
Shelves: music
The Velvet Underground and Nico edition of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of books on record albums by Joe Harvard has some good information about the album, it seems pieced together from several other sources and doesn’t have the authority of some of the other selections I have read. It has been suggested that booklet that came with the Peel Slowly 5 disc VU Box set has as much information and while that is not true, it is not as comprehensive as Frank Bruno’s impressive book on Elvis Costello’s Arm ...more
May 08, 2010 Jon rated it really liked it
I do like The Velvet Underground. But this is the first book I've read about them and I thought it a nice place to start. I'm fairly familiar with the band's history and thought this book did a good job talking about the historical context of the album and all those popular stories surrounding the band and this album, while also giving some good thoughts, insights, and analysis that made the band and the album seem that much more interesting.

This was an easy, quick read that I breezed through in
Elliot Chalom
Sep 06, 2015 Elliot Chalom rated it really liked it
The back cover states "In this book, Joe Harvard covers everything from Lou Reed's lyrical genius to John Cale's groundbreaking instrumentation, and from the creative input of Andy Warhol to the fine details of the recording process." That's a perfectly apt description of what this solid if unspectacular entry in the 33-1/3 canon does. Harvard gives a detailed and comprehensive "making of" the album in a short but rich 145 pages. However, despite the fact that he admittedly finds it to be one of ...more
This could have been better, but it was still interesting. i feel I could have written a more nuanced analysis of the album than this dude did, but there were a lot of little factoids that I'm glad to know. Like you know in "Femme Fatale" when the guys sing "She's a femme fataaaale" and they pronounce the "a" really flat and nasally? Apparently that infuriated Nico, and she wanted them to pronounce it in the correct French way, but Lou Reed insisted that they pronounce it that way. And she didn' ...more
Nov 22, 2010 Dimitri rated it really liked it
Morrison said: "It [Loaded] showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records. We usually opted not to, because our material was incompatible with standard pop-music treatment. But people would wounder, 'Could they do it if they had to?' The answer was, 'Yes, we could.' And we did." But if what you're concerned with is whether or not a band was capable of making a truly great record, one that would remain vital and powerful, beautiful yet awe-inspiring long beyond the ...more
Mar 25, 2008 Tosh rated it liked it
A so-so book on one of the great albums. I am proud to say that I discovered this particular album not by myself or via a friend at school or even through the rock media of the time. It was through my Dad who had a copy of the album in his collection. In fact it took me awhile to get to even listen to this album. Maybe a year??? Nevertheless it is one of those great recordings where sounds equals great songwriting equals great performance. It's magic. It really is. This book on the other hand is ...more
Andrew Kubasek
Jun 05, 2011 Andrew Kubasek rated it really liked it
Shelves: completed
A really fun book! Granted, it contains a lot of references to demos and alternate takes that, without access to them, make it hard to fully comprehend. But the background material - especially regarding Andy Warhol's relationship to the band as "producer" and how Nico came to join the group - is especially engrossing. I also liked the mini-essays about each song from the final cut of the record.

I highly recommend that anyone reading this book be very familiar with the album before even trying t
Andrew Guthrie
Jan 30, 2016 Andrew Guthrie rated it it was amazing
The Velvet Underground And Nico
By Joe Harvard

“I’m not a critic. I’m a musician and this is not an attempt to “explain” the Velvet Underground . . .”
from the introduction to “The Velvet Underground and Nico” by Joe Harvard.

If the first Velvet Underground album came out in 1966, then I was 11 years old. I was already steeped in the mid-1960s “rock revolution”, being the youngest of four kids, listening to my older siblings’ records and the AM radio. I clearly remember my sister playing the album i
Mar 29, 2015 Dena rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2007 Don rated it liked it
Just discovered the "33 1/3" series of books, where each volume takes one noteworthy & influential album and delves into it in excruciating detail - the band members, their history, the making of the album, thoughts & explanations on all of the songs, etc. It's not perfect - at times, the author's prose gets a little too full of its own cleverness - but for music geeks like myself, this is a fantastic discovery. (And I can't help but note they have a volume on Aqualung...!)
Feb 16, 2015 Bayneeta rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
When we married my ex-husband and I merged our record collections, and agreed to pass duplicates on to siblings. Turns out the only duplicates were a few Beatles albums and maybe a Dylan or two. Our musical tastes were wildly divergent. But over the years I grew to appreciate many of the albums in his collection. This was one of them. This book has more detail about tunings than I'm able to appreciate, but a chance to revisit a favorite album was much appreciated.
Sep 19, 2014 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Certainly one of the best books in this series and highly recommended, whether or not you are a fan of the Velvet Underground.

Written as an appreciation and highly successful in that regard. The author concentrates on the album and the making of it (primarily) and avoids the pointless trivia that surrounds that band in particular and these books in general.

Certainly has given me cause to go back to some music I haven't heard in some time.
Rojitas Oliva
Apr 17, 2016 Rojitas Oliva rated it liked it
this stuff is in the dna of every other album i really dig: music that's immediate and makes me want to say things like 'beef' & 'dirt' but is still weird enough to be exciting. It also accidentally ended up being one of the first really formative cd's i impulsively bought after seeing it on some blogs list of the greatest albums of all time and then again on sale for six bucks. glory fades I guess.

as far as this book goes it's got some boring bits of revisionist fact checking crap, but coup
Tanya Taylor
Feb 08, 2014 Tanya Taylor rated it it was amazing
Joe Harvard does an incredible job of piecing together years of information about this album and the people who created it ~ his notes on the individual tracks will make old fans want to revisit the album in order to better appreciate the subtle details in each song. Can't believe I waited so long to read this gem.
Patrick Gibbs
Jan 29, 2014 Patrick Gibbs rated it really liked it
Nice conversational piece on the VU's first album, the making of, and context for the environment in which it landed. Not exactly a behind the scenes look, but more of a pulling together of the many tales relating to the making of the album. Bonus points for going to Jonathan Richman as a source.
Jan 08, 2009 Chris rated it liked it
My first 33 1/3. It was good and had a lot of stuff I didn't know, which is always great. It also had (I thought) a pretty good approach to the often dodgy rock non-fiction genre. Making sense of (often verbal) legends and rumors isn't easy and Joe Harvard did a good job of putting things in perspective.
Patrick Fisackerly
Sep 15, 2011 Patrick Fisackerly rated it really liked it
A really interesting little book that tells you pretty much everything you'd want to know about THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO, one of the greatest rock albums ever made. It's as much about Lou Reed as it is about Andy Warhol and the whole Factory subculture of the '60s, and that's fine with me. A good read.
Aug 08, 2008 Nathan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lou Reed
Shelves: 33-1-3-series
I really enjoyed this read. It got away from the typical Andy Warhol shtick that you get when you read about the band. This one actually could have gone a bit farther than it did, but I like me some Joe Harvard.
Mar 01, 2009 David rated it liked it
"If I hadn't heard rock 'n' roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet."

"All great art looks like it was made this morning." - Norman Dolph
Lydia Gurevich
Sep 27, 2009 Lydia Gurevich rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Amazing, informative book about the greatest band of all time.
Jacqueline Valencia
Feb 22, 2014 Jacqueline Valencia rated it really liked it
May 24, 2016 Tom rated it it was amazing
A wonderful history and summation of what makes this such a special album. The analysis of what differentiates this album from other pop or rock albums is very insightful.
April Raine
Oct 13, 2014 April Raine rated it it was ok
It feels a little disjointed at times, but the content draws you in-and makes you realize how influential The Velvet Underground truly is.
Will Lynch
Oct 09, 2007 Will Lynch rated it it was ok
Joe Harvard completely gives in to the kind of senseless band-worship that often turns me of to rock journalism. He also assumes the reader already knows all the infamous rumors and legends about the Velvets, to which he makes ambiguous reference but does not retell (fairly presumptuous, considering the reader has chosen to buy a book about the Velvet Underground... do that many people really read multiple volumes on the band?) More than anything else, this just made me want to read "Please Kill ...more
Aug 09, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Shelves: music, psychedelic
I most appreciated two things about this book. One was that it got me to listen to this again (repeatedly) and confirm that it is indeed one of my favorite albums of all time. The other is that Joe Harvard explained the role of album producers in some detail, and in so doing made a convincing case that Andy Warhol, by virtue of his being hands-off and basically a shield against challenges to UV's artistic vision, was quite successful. Before reading this I'd just seen him as producer qua "the gu ...more
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