Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 252
Sun. Nov 10, 2013
Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground
At first listen, “Sunday Morning” sounds like the idyllic soundtrack to a romantic wake-up call between two lovers entwined— following their inspirations with lustier thoughts in bed. Despite the lovely arrangement, there’s a dark lyrical undercurrent seething underneath this once apparent heavenly setting. But just like most Lou Reed songs, it’s all what you feel within the sounds of this classic Velvet Underground single. Is “Sunday Morning” an anthem for the paranoid obsessive or a beautiful song dedicates to Reed’s ideal lover on his favorite day of the week? You decide…
In his 33 1/3 tome, The Velvet Underground & Nico, author Joe Harvard claims that the first song for V.U.’s first album was a precursor to two totally different future rock songs as he explained, when he wrote, ““Sunday Morning” may be the root of the family tree of songs like “Every Breath You Take” and “Satellite of Love,” whose pretty, lulling melodies mask their true thematic darkness. Sting and Lou Reed have admitted that their gently soothing aural textures mask the ugly expression of an emotion—obsessive jealously—so powerful it evokes the desire for full-time surveillance.” What you think is song for a picture perfect day becomes something with a more sinister lyrical identity.
So what was the genesis for Lou’s obsessive love melody? According to Dave Thompson’s Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell: The Dangerous Glitter of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, “Reed was strumming a melody one day when Warhol stopped to listen and asked to hear more. “I didn’t have the lyrics…and he said, ‘Why don’t you make it a song about paranoia?’ I thought that was great, so I came up with, ‘watch out, the world is behind you…,’ which I feel is the ultimate paranoid statement in that the world cares enough to watch you.” Andy Warhol was the one who suggested the theme to Lou, giving Reed’s love song a more infatuated undertone.
Reed’s love theme of obsession, “Sunday Morning” was the last song recorded for The Velvet Underground and Nico because producer Tom Wilson said that V.U.’s album needed a single as Tom Wilson told Paul Morrissey in his book Nico: The Life & Lies of An Icon, ““You couldn’t put an album out without having a single. But there’s nothing on [The Velvet Underground & Nico] that could be a single, and I want Nico to sing it. But I need a commercial song for Nico to sing.”” That’s when Lou brought Wilson “Sunday Morning” but not for Nico, Reed wanted to sing it. Author Nigel Williamson described the results of Lou’s vocal in his book, White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground: Day-by-Day, when he wrote, “Reed’s decision to commandeer the lead vocal is justified by the end result, however ungraciously he might have asserted himself in the studio. The song is almost sunny and catchy enough to be a Mamas & The Papas tune, it’s seductive, yearning beauty—and Reed’s effectively breathy singing—masking an ambiguous unease and uncertainty.” Williamson is right; Lou was the only choice for lead vocals on “Sunday Morning.” Nico’s low voice would have stifled, the sunshine making it a monotone song without Reed’s extra layer of lyrical delicacy of light.
One fan of “Sunday Morning” was Ian McCulloch, legendary Lou Reed fan who agreed with Nigel’s assessment, and is most famously know as the front man for Echo & The Bunnymen who told Chris Adams in his book, Turquoise Days: The Weird World of Echo & the Bunnymen, when the lead singer of Echo once said, “I think [The Velvet Underground & Nico] is actually the greatest album ever made. The Beatles or the Stones can’t touch this. It covers the complete spectrum between weird drug songs and seemingly innocent love songs, but even with ‘Sunday Morning’ there’s an undercurrent of weirdness, mainly due to Lou Reed’s voice. Perfect.”
Lou Reed’s lovely romantic anthem for closeted obsessives was the perfect way to begin The Velvet Underground & Nico. At first glance, “Sunday Morning” sounds like the ideal love song to lay in bed with your lover but, Reed’s lyrics hit at more sinister undertones. Lou’s vocal sounds like the nakedness of vulnerability coming to life through his subconscious feeding the paranoia unable to be satisfied within the moment. It’s like, Reed’s lyrical persona doesn’t believe he’s worthy enough and is already pondering where his lover is going when she gets out of his bed and walks out the door. So what do you think? Is ‘Sunday Morning” the soundtrack for two romantics lost in the throws within their passions on their favorite day of the week or is this opening song from The Velvet Underground & Nico filled with subliminal suspicious buried within Reed’s shadowy lyrics?
I still believe the best description of this opening song from Velvet Underground & Nico was by Sterling Morrison in Peter Hogan’s The Rough Guide to The Velvet Underground when V.U.’s guitarist famously said that “Sunday Morning” captures the essence of— “when you’ve been up all Saturday night and you’re crawling home while people are going to church. The sun is up and you’re like Dracula, hiding you eyes.” Either way, this 1967 single remains a Velvet Underground classic and a perfect song to wake up to—for this or any “Sunday Morning.”
And here’s my favorite, a link to:
V.U.’s “Sunday Morning (Original Mono Single Version)”