Friday, September 14, 2007

Lyrics of the Day

I was listening to The Velvet Underground & Nico yesterday*, one of the most influential rock and roll albums of all time. This 1967 debut album and its noisier follow-up, White Light/White Heat, didn't sell well when they were released, but they inspired many punk bands a decade later. In fact, Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground is sometimes called the "Godfather of Punk" (so is Iggy Pop). I bought the record (yes, it was on vinyl) 20 years after it came out. Another twenty years later, it has become what I call "comfort music," stuff I know by heart and happily sing along to, no matter how dark much of the subject matter is.

The song "Venus In Furs" is about sadomasochism, which was a pretty risque topic for a record in 1967. Of course, it never got played on the radio. The title is shared with a book by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Severin is a character from the book who loves a woman so much he asks to be her slave. Here are a couple of verses:
Kiss the boot of shiny shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue the thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike dear mistress and cure his heart

Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now bleed for me
The lyrics are accompanied by mournful and unsettling instrumentation including Mo Tucker's ominously thumping drums, John Cale's electric viola (which always sounds creepy to me), and Lou Reed's "ostrich guitar" (all strings tuned to the same note).

* Actually, it was Disc 2 of Peel Slowly And See, the Velvet Underground boxed set which includes all of their studio albums plus a mixed bag of previously unreleased material.

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