[Ed. note: In honor of John Cale’s mini-residency at BAM this week — including an all-star tribute to Nico on Wednesday and performances of his 1973 solo album, Paris 1919 on Friday and Saturday — Flavorwire New York has embarked upon a week-long celebration of all things Velvet Underground.]
While there is no dearth of books, magazine articles, blog posts, and record store conversations as to just how important the LPs put out by The Velvet Underground were and continue to be to modern music, the various members of the group have also amassed a pretty remarkable string of albums since the band’s first record came out in 1967. Below, we rank the band members’ top ten most essential post-VU releases.
10. Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music
Depending on your personal preferences, 1975 album, the most nihilistic statement of his career, might not be what you consider good music. Over an hour of droning noise that actually keeps in step with Reed and Cale’s early, pre-Velvets work, Metal Machine Music might actually be the punkest record ever.
9. Mo Tucker – I Spent a Week There the Other Night
Tucker gets a handful of various CBGB punks to play on these 11 tracks, and even convinces all of her other former VU members to join in.
8. Lou Reed and John Cale – Songs for Drella
It took Andy Warhol’s death in 1987 to get Reed and Cale talking again. Two years later they got together to record this song cycle about the life of their old friend, and gave the world their best work of the 1980s.
7. Nico – Chelsea Girl
In a solo debut that came out six months after her collaboration with the Velvets, Nico is the chanteuse for every heartbreak, with songs written by friends and lovers including Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, and, of course, Lou Reed.
6. Lou Reed – Berlin
In true Lou Reed fashion, the “Godfather of Punk” goes out and follows up his hit album Transformer with what is easily one of his most depressing and ahead of its time albums ever.
5. John Cale – Vintage Violence
Cale wasn’t especially pleased with his 1970 solo album, saying that there wasn’t “much originality on that album.” But listeners today get an LP full of great early-’70s FM rock along the lines of The Byrds, Van Morrison, and the Bob Dylan-sounding “Big White Cloud.”
4. Nico – The Marble Index
Dark, chilling, and beautiful; The Marble Index is when Nico shed all her previous skin, and gave the world an album that reviewers of the time described as “disturbing.”
3. Mo Tucker – Life in Exile After Abdication
Along with members of Sonic Youth, Daniel Johnston, and her old pal, Lou Reed, Tucker tears through a couple of covers (Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” is particularly great), a few VU songs, and opens it all up with the insanely catchy channeling of “Ballroom Blitz” and The Runaways in “Hey Mersh!”
2. John Cale – Paris 1919
If Reed’s Transformer hadn’t won such commercial success, Cale’s 1973 album would be #1 on this list. In possibly one of the most literary albums ever recorded, Cale uses Graham Greene, Shakespeare, and Dylan Thomas as reference points, and goes from England to Paris to Spain through this nine-song baroque pop masterpiece.
1. Lou Reed – Transformer
There’s that old saying about how everybody who heard the Velvet Underground went out and started a band. That might be true, but Reed’s David Bowie and Mick Ronson-produced 1972 solo album is the one that made him a star.