For this episode of The Original vs. The Cover, we are going to talk about the song “Heroin” by the band The Velvet Underground. The song is off their 1967 debut album ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico” which I reviewed a few weeks back. The Cover version we will be bouncing up against the Original is by Billy Idol off his 1993 album ‘Cyberpunk’ which I have also reviewed on this site.
The song was written by Lou Reed and produced by Andy Warhol. That combination has to produce something interesting. And I am sure this is a shocker, but the song is about drug use. I know, I know, stunned right? According to Reed when he was working as a songwriter for a record company, the song was written when he was told to go in to a room and write some some surfing songs, well this is what came out. I think he missed the point and thankfully for us, he did. The song doesn’t condone or condemn drug use and seems to be about the effects of drug use. Whatever the meaning, the song works on so many levels.
We will go through each song and then at the end, I will tell you who I think has the better song…and it isn’t always the original which is why I like doing these posts. So sit back and enjoy.
If I thought the last album was a little daunting to review with The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’, this one is just as daunting a task. This has also been called one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the most influential albums as well. Punk, grunge and numerous other genres all owe a tip of the hat to this album. With ‘Pet Sounds’, I found the album was really good, but I didn’t think it was one of the best ever although “God Only Knows” is one of the best songs. So how will this one fare? I will come out and just say it, I love this album! I mean this thing far exceeded any expectations especially since it has been labeled as art pop and experimental rock. I wasn’t sure what to expect and this wasn’t it. I have to say this thing kind of blew me away.
First up, what an awesome band. The Velvet Underground is the great Lou Reed and John Cale as well as Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker. And then you throw the German singer, Nico, in the mix and not a bad bunch of people to have sitting around playing music. And the strange part of the album is that Andy Warhol produced it. Andy does art, I didn’t realize he produced as well. The album came out on March 12, 1967 and sounds like a product of its time as you can tell it is an album of the 60’s, but there is so much more.
I have had this coffee table book for at least 7-8 years. My wife knows of my love for music and she got me this book on album covers that mostly covers the 50’s to the 70’s. Thankfully, there aren’t that many words and it is mostly a picture book as that is all I can really handle.
Album artwork was really at its peak in the 70’s and the book commemorates that era with this great collection of album covers. The collection was first released in 1977 and has been updated many times since. This edition from 2008 was the newest edition at the time. They included a Preface by Peter Gabriel and an additional Foreward by John Wetton of King Crimson.
One of the coolest things about the book is it is edited by two of the masters of album artwork. First you have Storm Throgerson, the founder of the company Hipgnosis and they were famous for their album covers for Pink Floyd among others. He also does an additional Foreward.