Musical Indulgence #7:
Christmas Week Edition
Could there have been a more anachronistic album cover in 1973 than that of The Velvet Underground's final LP, Squeeze? Not only was there something embarassingly passe about its Psychedelicized artwork, but what in hell was the Empire State Building doing on an album that wasn't even released in the United States? Lou Reed had taken that New York after-hours aesthetic with him when he quit the band during the recording of their Loaded LP in 1970. Undaunted, the Velvets (what was left of them) soldiered on, with mystic Drummer Maureen 'Mo' Tucker and Bassist Doug Yule taking up the moribund standard by touring overseas. They had to add a couple of new faces to the act (Guitarist Sterling Morrison seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way), and it all would have ended with as little fanfare as it started if Steve Sesnick, the group's manager, hadn't wrangled a recording deal with Polydor in Great Britain.
When the time came to record, another Pop music tradition was observed: With the exception of Doug Yule, who contributed the vocals, none of the Velvets (even the recent additions) participated. There would be no feedback workouts, no lyrics about all that gamy and beautiful subject matter infesting the earlier albums. This was a Pop exercise produced by the Drummer from Deep Purple (Ian Paice), and rendered with dispatch by a fleet of anonymous session players. Quick-buck textbook stuff; just like a Paul Revere and The Raiders LP.
When it was released in Europe, Squeeze failed to break open the album charts (but then, of what Velvet Underground album can this not be said?). It was, in fact, dead on arrival.
And that was, for all intent, the end of The Velvet Underground.