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The Velvet Underground & Nico

(33⅓ #11)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  874 ratings  ·  76 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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Paul Bryant
Oct 04, 2007 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
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

The first band – of many; so, so many – I became truly obsessed with was The Doors. I was at that impressionable age of 13, when my interest in music my father (or, in this particular case, my friends’ fathers) listened to growing up had begun to outweigh the pop songs saturating the radio waves. It was also when puberty had taken its hold over me, when girls went from “gross” to “hubba hubba” seemingly overnight, when I learned that obsession was more than just a cologne.

It started o
Paul Austin
Apr 07, 2008 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
May 24, 2008 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
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
Jeremy Liang
Nov 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Eh, not to much meat on the bone. But, reading this did get me to listen to The Velvets’ music more attentively, so maybe it was all a means to an end.
May 08, 2010 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
Patrick McCoy
Sep 28, 2011 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
Dragan Nanic
Mar 01, 2014 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
Elliot Chalom
Dec 18, 2012 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
Oct 25, 2007 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
May 16, 2011 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
Oct 18, 2007 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...!) ...more
Sep 12, 2014 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.
Feb 11, 2015 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. ...more
Jan 08, 2009 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. ...more
Patrick Fisackerly
Sep 12, 2011 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. ...more
Tanya Taylor
Jan 29, 2014 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. ...more
Patrick Gibbs
Jan 29, 2014 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. ...more
Aug 08, 2008 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.
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Velvet Underground fans
Genius. I love the 33&1/3 series, but this one is probably my favorite, mainly because it documents the genesis of an album so dear to me. A must for any Velvet Underground fan.
Jan 04, 2009 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Amazing, informative book about the greatest band of all time.
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
I thoroughly enjoyed this bio of the great album. Short sharp and to the point.
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 33-1-3, music
One of the greatest albums, not one of the greatest 33 1/3s.
Andrew Guthrie
Jan 29, 2016 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
Frank Jude
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The 331/3 series of books about influential albums offers a kind of "biography" of the albums reviewed, often including the "how it came to happen" as well as a song by song breakdown of the album. I've read several of these little paperbacks (Marquee Moon and Trout Mask Replica among my faves, and this one, by Joe Harvard meets the high standards set by those two.

As Harvard points out, when we're talking about rock as it is now played, there is no argument that The Velvet Underground -- regardl
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
A hugely influential album "produced" by a well-known artist who knew nothing about music production, recorded in several different places over a disputed number of days, that served to drive rock music out into a hinterland that had been unimaginable only a few short years earlier… There is still plenty to pick over on this album, which has been written about many times, and this little book takes the picking-over route, dishing on the way it was recorded, the occasional (sometimes understandab ...more
Ross Bonaime
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
For some reason, I have never listened to "The Velvet Underground & Nico," so in order to gain some context for the album, I decided to read Joe Harvard's 33 1/3 installment on the album. Harvard's breakdown of the album is more or less what I wanted this book to be, explaining the making of the album and the importance of the songs. The finest part of the book - as is with most of these 33 1/3 books - is the breakdown of songs that showcases what each song means for the album as a whole. By the ...more
( Format : Audiobook )
"Chords, tones and textures" or "noise and garbage?"
Since the latter half of the 1960s I've been a an enormous can of the Velvet Underground, was even privileged to have seen them play one time, and always marvelled that in an age when Rock was almost exclusively the domain of the male, the most exciting, driving, avant garde and rockiest of all the groups had a woman, not as token singer, but right there in the beating heart of the rhythm: the great Moe Tucker as the drum
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