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Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2013
This 2004 account (running to around 140 A5 size pages) by Bostonian musician, producer and co-founder of Fort Apache Studios, Joe Harvard, of the history of one of music's most seminal albums, The Velvet Underground And Nico, provides for a compelling read (obviously made that much more compelling if you are a fan of the album). I speak as something of a novice in terms of background reading on the Velvets, so I'm not sure whether much of Harvard's material has been covered elsewhere but, to me, this book was a series of fascinating revelations. Much of Harvard's material is reference-sourced and he includes extensive interview snippets with Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Norman Dolph (one of the actual producers of the record - as opposed to the album cover-credited Andy Warhol who had no direct role in the album's production).

Harvard's book in divided into three sections: The Setting, in which he describes the background, history and influences of the band and the recording process for the album, The Songs, in which he writes a piece on background and history of each of the album's songs, and finally a very brief final section, The Aftermath, which essentially says that MGM/Verve botched any promotion of the album and (as we know) it bombed commercially (albeit any album with the subject matter of songs such as Heroin, I'm Waiting For The Man and Venus In Furs was hardly going to race to the top of the Billboard Chart anyway).

Some of the most interesting insights for me cover some of the personal relationships within the band, with creative geniuses Reed and Cale essentially being at loggerheads for much of the time, whilst Sterling Morrison acted as 'the glue' keeping the band together and Mo Tucker essentially just kept quiet and got on with it. Similarly, Harvard also records the difficulty that Nico had (after being recommended for inclusion in the band by Warhol and Paul Morrissey) of persuading Reed to name a song on which she could sing, and Harvard's account also makes clear the high regard in which the entire band held Warhol, and whose presence during the album's recording they considered very influential, despite having no direct input to the technical side of recording. Plus, the astonishing fact that the use of the miniature xylophone at the start of Sunday Morning only happened because Cale noticed the instrument leaning against the studio wall immediately prior to the song's recording.

A succinct and insightful account of the recording of a key album of the 20th century.
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3.9 out of 5 stars