12 December 2011
368 pages, 2009
"White Light/White Heat" is a tremendous effort by an impressive author. Even if you're only marginally interested in the band, this is the place to read about them. Just open up the book, pick a page, and be astounded.
Richie Unterberger is a big-name pro, having written a number of books on the history of Rock.
He understands the world of music and is adept at analyzing facts and numbers and turning them into insightful observations that connect both historically and culturally. Here he breaks down the history of the "Velvet Underground", one of the strangest and most controversial bands to have ever emerged from the cult underground of New York, into a day-by-day rendering. Beginning in 1958 in a pre-Velvets introduction and running through 1973, when the band effectively dismantled, the book covers every aspect of the band from Lou Reed's school days and John Cale's early experimental projects through Lou Reed's departure and the group's ultimate induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Velvet Underground was not for everybody, and neither is this book. If you were a devotee of the band - and typically, anyone who listened to the group listened very intently, so you were probably either a hardcore follower or not interested at all - you'll go crazy over this chronology. Every recording session is detailed; every live performance is mentioned; and every TV appearance is noted. Anytime anybody sneezed is captured here.
In "White Light/White Heat", Richie Unterberger analyzes the band's career and influence in forensic detail, drawing on dozens of new interviews with band members and associates, previously undiscovered archive sources, and a vast knowledge of the music of the times.
The result is an articulate, authoritative, immensely detailed history, the most thorough work on the band yet published. Richie Unterberger is an acclaimed author and music historian, renowned for his meticulous research, so it should be no surprise that In "White Light/White Heat" is poised to become the quintessential Velvet Underground tome.
"White Light/White Heat" also features more than 100 illustrations, including reproductions of rarely or never seen photos, concert posters, letters, and other assorted documents and memorabilia. It's the ultimate history of the band that did more than any other to break down barriers between Rock music and the avant-garde, incorporating electronic innovations, experimental instrumentation and improvisation, and lyrics detailing the realities of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll with greater skill and daring than anyone else.