The Velvet Underground & Nico Songs Ranked

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by American rock band the Velvet Underground and German singer Nico, released in March 1967 through Verve Records. It was recorded in 1966 while the band were featured on Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour. The album features experimental performance sensibilities and controversial lyrical topics, including drug abuse, prostitution, sadomasochism and sexual deviancy. It sold poorly and was mostly ignored by contemporary critics, but later became regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of rock and pop music. Described as “the original art-rock record”, The Velvet Underground & Nico served as a major influence on many subgenres of rock music and forms of alternative music, including punk, garage, krautrock, post-punk, shoegaze, goth, and indie. In 1982, musician Brian Eno stated that while the album only sold approximately 30,000 copies in its first five years, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!” In 2003, it ranked 13th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and in 2006, it was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. Here are all of The Velvet Underground & Nico songs ranked.

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11. The Black Angel’s Death Song

“Wow, that certainly is a title for a song, and the track itself doesn’t disappoint with a title as intense as that, John Cale’s viola is back baby, and almost as powerful as it was on ‘Venus In Furs.’ It’s ok, Lou’s sputtery vocals come out again, though much less so than ‘Heroin.’ Look, I won’t lie to you, this is definitely my pick for the weakest song on the album, still very energetic and intense, but unlike everything else on this record, it doesn’t quite stand out as unique.”

10. European Son

“There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about the opening lines to this song, “You killed your European son! You spit on those under twenty-one! But now your blue cars are gone, you’d better say so long, hey, bye-bye!” What the hell does it mean? Haven’t a clue, but the delivery on it is so incredible it doesn’t really matter if it means a lick of sense. Before long, the instruments devolve into the same madness that Lou’s spouting on this song, after a bowl smashes right into the floor. Yes, they did smash a real bowl for this song, and I absolutely love it.”

The Velvet Underground & Nico: Peel Slowly And See The VU's Debut

9. There She Goes Again

“We all know what the best part of this song is, it’s that goddamn drum break at the end of each chorus, where all the other instruments stop to let Maureen totally steal the show on this track, with a little help from that guitar again. Also, the little ba-ba ba ba ba-ba at the end as everything speeds up in the fade-out is a really unique way to end a song, not often you hear a fadeout that’s more speedy than the rest of the song.”

See more: The Velvet Underground Albums Ranked

8. I’ll Be Your Mirror

“Nico’s final song on the album, and easily her best performance on the record, in my opinion. This has got to be one of the most real sounding love songs of this era. Going back to those nerdy love songs from bands like The Beatles, it’s pretty obvious the girls they’re singing about don’t actually exist. Nico though? I believe every word she’s saying here, whoever she’s singing about has gotta be a real person, man, her delivery is smooth as ever, and surprisingly heartfelt for once.”

The Velvet Underground: rock's first cult band | America Magazine

7. Run Run Run

“Some people think this song is a filler track, only in there just to give side A a bit more run time. To those people, I say, are you fucking nuts? This song is exciting as shit! Take that chug, chug, chug, from ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ and speed it up tenfold and you’ve got this raucous jam. That guitar jangles like it’s being handled by a fervent mad man, those pounding drums, the way that guitar sounds like it’s unleashing its death scream, rattling around like someone let loose a drumstick in a ribcage, then shook around that poor skeleton, for a guitar solo?”

6. Femme Fatale

“Oh, there it is! A song about a cute babe. She’s not easy though, she wants to know how bad you want it, she’ll make you work for it, damn it! This is Nico’s first song on the album, and while it’s certainly not my favorite performance from her on this album, it’s quite a good one. The backing vocals from Lou and co. on this are especially poppy, reminds me of some of the other best pop groups from this era, à la The Zombies, or even The Beatles themselves.”

The Velvet Underground – 10 of the best | Velvet Underground | The Guardian

See more: The Velvet Underground Songs Ranked

5. All Tomorrow’s Parties

“Nico’s second song on the album is where she really takes advantage of her gothic voice. That bell piano opens the song and rings through it the whole time, and Nico only stops singing for another jangly guitar, less fervent like the last song, but just as cool. Really love the way it builds at that last part, higher and higher until finally finishing. There’s another innuendo in there somewhere.”

4. I’m Waiting for the Man

“Let’s get dirty. That tambourine is already going fast, so’s that guitar, even those drums, oh my god, is it gonna build? Is it gonna get faster and faster? Oh, it builds alright, but it’s steady. This song chugs and chugs and chugs, steady, but blaring. Feels like walking down a busy city street to me. There’s a lot of distractions going on, but you’ve got a place to be. Where’s that place? Right down this alleyway, see that guy with the weird shoes and the dumb hat? He’s got the stuff.”

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3. Venus in Furs

“The sweet stuff couldn’t last that long, this is The Velvet Underground & Nico after all. Raunchy, graphic, and certainly horny, this is where the album finally shows it’s true colors. As fascinating as Lou’s exasperated, pleading vocals are on this song, we all know John Cale steals the show with that viola. That thing sounds menacing, the way it drones in and out and then seems to almost skip, in and out, and that one skip, into a long draw, just a minute before the end of the song? Good god Cale, you’re gonna make the people bust. Keep it in your pants next time.”

2. Sunday Morning

“I wake up most mornings thinking about this song, not just Sundays, believe it or not. Absolutely dreamy, hazy, ethereal. Lou’s voice floats over that twinkling xylophone (at least, I think it’s a xylophone.) With Lou chimes in that gentle bass strum, and a tambourine, and before long Lou gets even more hazy, more dreamy, like a forgotten memory finally coming back to you.”

The Velvet Underground, Aretha Franklin, Tiny Tim: An alternate history of  music in 1968 - Los Angeles Times

1. Heroin

“Like many others, this is my favorite song on the album. I can’t be a hipster about everything! Yes, It’s true, side B opens up with the greatest rock song ever made, if you can even call it a rock song at this point. I mentioned a bit about building earlier. This song builds. It builds until the building of sound it has made becomes too tall, and then it crashes. It smashes right into the ground into a flaming wreckage of chaos. Lou’s vocals are his most fervent yet, blabbing on and on, repeating the same things he’s just said, making the greatest ‘Non-Statement’ in music ever told, “Oh and I guess, I just don’t know.” “