White Light/White Heat is the second album by The Velvet Underground. It was their last with original member John Cale.
After the disappointing sales of The Velvet Underground's first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico
, the band's relationship with Andy Warhol
deteriorated. They toured most of late 1967. Many of their live performances featured noisy improvisations that would become key elements in White Light/White Heat
. The band eventually fired Warhol and Nico
, and went on to record their second album with a new producer. The album was recorded in just two days, and with a noticeably different style than The Velvet Underground and Nico
. John Cale described White Light/White Heat
as "a very rabid record...The first one had some gentility, some beauty. The second one was consciously anti-beauty." Sterling Morrison said, "We were all pulling in the same direction. We may have been dragging each other off a cliff, but we were all definitely going in the same direction. In the White Light/White Heat
era, our lives were chaos. That’s what’s reflected in the record."
The album briefly appeared on the Billboard Top 200, although only reaching the 199th position. Despite its poor sales, the distorted, feedback-driven, and roughly recorded sound on White Light/White Heat has since become a large influence on punk and experimental rock. As of September 2008, it ranks at #141 at Rate Your Music's Top Albums of All Time. It has also gained a cult following among many fans of the album.
Nearly every song on the album contains some sort of experimental or avant-garde
quality. "The Gift
", for example, contains a recital of a short story
and a loud instrumental rock song playing simultaneously in two separate stereo channels. "I Heard Her Call My Name
" is notable for its distorted guitar solos and prominent use of feedback.
The album is also memorable for Lou Reed's lyrics, which often focus on themes of drug use and sexual absurdity, including the song "Lady Godiva's Operation", about a transsexual's botched lobotomy, and the title track "White Light/White Heat", which glorifies the use of amphetamine.
On the album's last track, "Sister Ray", Reed tells a tale of debauchery, while the band plays an improvised 17 minute jam around three chords verging between glam/punk and pure minimalist drone rock.
The album cover to White Light/White Heat
is a faint image of a tattoo
of a skull
. The subtle picture of the tattooed arm was photographed, enlarged and distorted by Billy Name
, one of Warhol's "Factory
" members. It is difficult to distinguish the tattoo, as the image is black, printed on a slightly lighter black background.
There also exists a unique MGM UK cover made from the late 70's to the early 80's featuring a white background and abstract toy soldiers.
- "White Light/White Heat" (Reed) – 2:47
- "The Gift" (Reed, Morrison, Cale, Tucker) – 8:18
- "Lady Godiva's Operation" (Reed) – 4:56
- "Here She Comes Now" (Reed, Morrison, Cale) – 2:04
- "I Heard Her Call My Name" (Reed) – 4:38
- "Sister Ray" (Reed, Morrison, Cale, Tucker) – 17:27
The Velvet Underground