The Velvet Underground - Loaded

The Velvet Underground - Loaded

You could argue that Loaded isn’t necessarily The Velvet Underground’s “best album.” It is, however, one of the finest albums of all time.

Across the New York rock n roll band’s first four albums (running from 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico, through White Light/White Heat, the self titled third album and 1970’s Loaded), they presented four dramatically different versions of themselves, each one as seminal and influential as the last, evolving through shades of avant-garde psychedelia, primal guitar drives and some of the most saccharine pop songs ever committed to tape. Loaded is fascinating as it was the end of the line*, a predictably messy and bitter last rodeo for the band’s most recognised line up. Lou Reed derided Loaded and had left the band before its release. Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker left the year following, leaving only Doug Yule whose influence is heard most clearly on Loaded more than any other album.

But all that said, that great pressure created a diamond.
The Velvet Underground

Although full of resentment and still not the album that either the band or the label wanted, Loaded is perfect. Ten tracks, five per side rolling around 20 minutes and not one second of wasted time. Originally released in November of 1970 on the Atlantic Records subsidiary Cotillion, Loaded has a real lightness. Opening track "Who Loves the Sun" is a joy, a swaggering Doo-wopin’ beauty. The following "Sweet Jane" contains some of Lou Reed’s finest lip-curling swagger and the drive of "Rock & Roll" and “Cool It Down" are some of the band’s most euphoric tracks. The second side has gloriously off kilter moments on “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and “Train Round the Bend”, all coming before the closing cut "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”, on which they truly created some of the most perfect seven minutes that anyone ever did.
The Velvet Underground

The Atlantic label had requested an album that was "loaded with hits" (of which the title plays a subtle dig) and looking back, Loaded is that. Short, sharp rock and roll songs and other curious asides, primed for the radio.

"On Loaded there was a big push to produce a hit single, there was that mentality, which one of these is a single, how does it sound when we cut it down to 3.5 minutes, so that was a major topic for the group at that point” - Doug Yule

More than any other album we own, this one tends to get played about four or five times through back to back when it goes onto the turntable. Loaded is a record that creates a vibe - and one that is the antithesis in many ways to the real world drama that forged it - it is a temptation too much to leave it alone, just keep turning the record over and over. Ten tracks and ten perfect opportunities to fall in love with one of the greatest ever American bands.

Get Loaded.

Further Reading

The great Lenny Kaye wrote about the album for Rolling Stone.

* Loaded was the last time that Lou Reed, Doug Yule, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker would appear together. Mo was actually pregnant and didn’t drum, with duties performed mainly by bassist Doug Yule, recording engineer Adrian Barber, session musician Tommy Castanero and Yule's brother Billy. Yule would go on to release the fifth and final album ‘Squeeze’ in 1973.

Drift Sunday Classic

• The pressing is a 2023 reissue on 140g Crystal Clear colour vinyl.


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