The Velvet Underground – Friends

10th March 2024 · 1970s, 1973, Music

Even though The Velvet Underground are my favourite band I think I’ve only listened to their fifth album once. Maybe not even once. Until now.

John Cale was long gone by the time it was recorded in 1971. Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker were also gone. It’s like a Velvets parody, written, sung and almost entirely performed by Cale’s replacement Doug Yule.

Except for the drums, played by Ian Paice of Deep Purple.

Squeeze is like a poor man’s Loaded: Yule sings in an approximation of Reed’s languid New York drawl, he copies the chunky riffing of Rock And Roll and Sweet Jane.

And sometimes, as here, the more melodic style of Reed’s slower songs.

The album is even sequenced like Loaded; which I guess makes this track – Friends – the equivalent of I Found A Reason, though it also has echoes of I’m Set Free and I’ll Be Your Mirror… the mellow, melodic tunes Reed always had in his locker.

Squeeze wasn’t released until 1973 and was immediately derided. But it’s not that bad; it’s not particularly bad at all, but it suffers from sounding like Loaded-lite, and from lacking the central figure of the band.

Recently, as is so often the way, critics have come out of the woodwork to “reassess” it more positively. I’m not sure it really merits any kind of serious reconsideration: it’s not some sort of hidden treasure.

It’s still by a large margin the worst thing ever to come out under the Velvets’ name. But for fans desperate for a bit of Velvet-ish songs, it might just do the job.

And this tune is really quite nice.