Tuesday, November 15, 2011

26. Velvet Underground, "I'm Waiting for the Man" (1967)


The banana album (formally, The Velvet Underground & Nico) was my first real exposure to the band, as before that I hadn't taken the opportunity to examine them closely and by then, honestly, it was already the early '80s, when I finally brought home a copy from the record store. One of those necessity purchases procrastinated, I guess—and I wish I had all those years back now so I could hear it that much more often. After the low-key and utterly pleasant overture of "Sunday Morning" this comes along to set the basic terms: a monotony of driving rhythm with pounding instruments stacked on top, packaged with a patented Story of Gritty Urban Reality™ (in this case scoring heroin out of Harlem). It's full of small wisdoms ("First thing you learn is that you always gotta wait") and sly humor ("Oh pardon me sir, it's furthest from my mind"), and it affords itself a good deal of untoward glee as it wallows in the various indignities and ultimate pleasures of the adventure it describes. But mostly it's fast and rocks righteous hard, functioning like a rave-up with a sour aftertaste, a gathering storm that can blow down houses, a pummeling beatdown you don't soon forget. For me, it always, always rewards turning up the volume, and for the first six months or so that I owned the album I rarely finished listening to this song not standing on my feet. It's one for waving your hands in the air like you just don't care and carrying on like a regular fool, and damn the neighbors pounding on the walls and ceiling.

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