My older brother had been a Velvet Underground fan for quite some time, and although I liked them, they didn't do much for me. I guess that they were a little too weird and different for my taste back then.
But in college, as I heard what an influence that they were on so many of the alternative music artists I liked, I went back to them, and found them very appealing.
The Velvet Underground was a band so many years ahead of their time that it’s not even funny. They were doing stuff that Joy Division and other bands would be doing 10 years later. The Velvet Underground were contemporaries of The Beatles and Beach Boys, for the god’s sake! And bands like Jesus and the Mary Chain, Stereolab and The Raveonettes owe a big debt to them!
Funny enough, “I’m Waiting for the Man” is one of their more poppy songs. Of course, talking about one of The Velvet Underground’s more poppy style songs is like talking about one of Picasso’s more conventional paintings – it would still be pretty different and weird.
The song, though a bit bizarre sounding, is really quite simple.
Starts off with this great, discordant piano, riffing on a short string of notes, with a guitar picking away on accompanying riff.
Then we got Lou Reed easing in with his unique vocal style.
I have to admit that I didn’t know for a number of years that Lou was singing about a guy waiting for his drug dealer. I just thought it was about a guy in a bad neighborhood wishing his friend would hurry up and show. – I can be very naïve. I don’t deny it! –
But as the song goes on, the piano picks up power and is join by a great jangly rhythm guitar. And Lou begins to slowly add tension to his voice, while still letting his voice just slowly pull the song along.
Then we close with this really discordant piano to a fade.
Very simple, but so extremely effective. Different and weird, but catchy and riffy. And just plain amazing!
A Velvet Underground web site
A link to My Favorite Song of the Day posts