Loaded: The Life (and Afterlife) of the Velvet Underground

Grand Central. Dec. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9781538756560. $30. MUSIC
Jones (Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics) offers an in-depth oral history of the Velvet Underground, from its inception in 1964 to its current impact. Gathering memories from band members, musicians, rock journalists, and contemporary observers, the author begins with pop artist Andy Warhol and his uninhibited acolytes, who embraced the loud, innovative music group. He uncovers the band’s initial avant-garde direction in quasi-beat, doo-wop-influenced guitarist/lyricist Lou Reed and the droning viola/bass of classically trained John Cale. He delves into Warhol’s insistence to add the beautiful German musical artist Nico to the mix, who lasted only as long as Warhol managed them. Jones continues with Reed’s ouster of Cale and Nico, the addition of guitarist Doug Yule, the move from industrial, streetwise music to melodic pop, and Reed’s departure. Taking the story to the present, the book highlights Reed’s commercial breakthrough, Cale’s and Nico’s post-Velvet output, the Velvet’s influence on punk, and the deaths of Nico, rhythm guitarist Sterling Morrison, and Reed.
VERDICT An informed narrative interspersed with quotes, this book paints a page-turning picture of the legendary Velvet Underground. Will appeal to general readers and rock aficionados.
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