Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

5. The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground & Nico

The Velvet Underground – sleaze for a million suburban bedrooms. Vicarious thrills of a filthy New York for kids who’d never even caught a bus to the city. Here were episodic Factory tales and new names and characters coated in city grime from bleak skyscraper streets, stumbling into Warhol’s Factory, starring in grainy films and pushing themselves through scandals, death trips and conceptual art.

The Velvets adopted the feedback sounds of The Who that were coming out of Britain at the time, and coupled this with Cale’s distorted viola drones, Dylan-style merciless New York urban rock commentary and Warholian detachment, to make a new, violently poetic update of urban art-rock.

With Bowie and Ronson’s help, Lou reed would later distil all this even further, in an inspired title steal of Saul Bass and Jimmy Smith’s masterpiece ‘A Walk On The Wild Side’. This record, produced by Bowie and Ronson, finally consolidated the story and created yet another hyper-cool archetype for urban music. The early Velvets remain the model for art rockers of a certain leaning. All modern bands refer to them in various detectable ways. So far, only Kraftwerk have managed to be rigorous enough to erase the traces.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Gang of Four, Johnny Dean of Menswear, Echo & The Bunnymen, Morrissey
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