Peel slowly and see,” the album dares us in tiny letters.
With artist Andy Warhol's iconic banana painting adorning the cover, the debut of The Velvet Underground makes listeners a promise of hidden potential.
It wasn't “alternative” in a '90s sense. There aren't any distorted power chords or flannel shirts.
It was “alternative” because it was different from everything else that was popular.
But “The Velvet Underground & Nico” stands apart from the crowd with a stripped down sound filled with musical innovations.
The album is distinct not only for ambitious use of modified instruments, but also for the controversial lyrics by frontman Lou Reed. Don't look for innuendo here — songs describing drug use and sexual themes are the norm.
At Warhol's coaxing, Reed hands over lead vocal work to German singer and fashion model Nico on three tracks.
Nico's unique voice and thick accent on “Femme Fatale,” “All Tomorrow's Parties” and “I'll Be Your Mirror” take some getting used to. After hearing these songs a few times though, it is hard to imagine it sounding any different.
In 1967, the music world took little notice of “The Velvet Underground & Nico.” It was banned from record stores and the radio over the controversial lyrics. It would be decades before the album would be praised as a forerunner of modern rock.
Record producer and musician Brian Eno reportedly once said only 10,000 people bought “The Velvet Underground & Nico” — but all of them started a band.