‘Sunday Morning’, the iconic song by the Velvet Underground, needs no introduction. It is the opening track on their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, a record that is widely credited as a pioneering album of alternative rock and this is the song that spearheads that breakthrough.
In 1966 Tom Wilson, a famed record producer, persuaded the Velvet Underground to change directions with the song by swapping Reeds vocals over to Nico’s on the recording. Written with Nico in mind, her role in the song was initially set up for backing vocals before the change of heart following a live performance of the song.
According to Reed, the song’s theme was suggested by Andy Warhol: “Andy said, ‘Why don’t you just make it a song about paranoia?’ I thought that was great so I came up with ‘Watch out, the world’s behind you, there’s always someone watching you,’ which I feel is the ultimate paranoid statement in that the world cares enough to watch you,” Reed once explained.
Reed made it very clear that The Velvet Underground joined forces to “write rock-and-roll that you could listen to as you got older and it wouldn’t lose anything,” a sentiment that couldn’t be more relatable with ‘Sunday Morning’.
For the Velvet Underground though, their aim was always to create music that separated them from the rest. In a 1987 interview, Reed once said: “We had an ambition and a goal: to elevate the rock song and take it where it hadn’t been before,” in conversation about the desire of his band the Velvet Underground.
“I just thought the other stuff couldn’t even come up to our ankles,” he added. “They were just painfully stupid and pretentious. When they did try to get ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock-and-roll.”
‘Sunday Morning‘ is arguably the band’s most well-known song, their album frontrunner and one that allowed Reed to add his explicitly honest lyrics and twist it around into a song that would define a genre.
Below, enjoy some rare footage of Lou Reed, John Cale and bass player Sterling Morrison tinkering around on a Sunday morning to pull their unique ideas together:
(Via: Open Culture)