100 Greatest Songs of the 70’s #73 The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane

Released : 1973

Once proteges of Andy Warhol but then estranged, the driving force behind The Velvet Underground’s fourth album Loaded was to fulfill a purpose he would’ve dismissed as sickeningly bourgoise. They had seen the future though; the nineteen seventies would be the era of the rock n’ roll band, that celebrity, money and excess would be art and the vulgarity of fame would be the most resonant form of installation in the eyes of an adoring public.

This was an altar on which sacrifices had to be made. Lou Reed had sacked Warhol seeing an end to his usefulness, with Nico also departing the scene; John Cale would follow through the exit door shortly afterwards to be replaced by Doug Yule. It was a deliberate right turn by Reed, although the famous subsequent quote – attributed to Brian Eno but since partially debunked – was ‘The Velvet Underground’s first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.’

Reed himself was an ex-Velvet when Loaded was released, leaving for a solo career which initially stuttered. He left the remaining members with “an album full of hits that I made”, arguably the finest of which was Sweet Jane. With a blissful intro that gives way to a good old honky tonk, here was Reed envisaging life in the world of a rock star which whilst with VU seemed an impossible goal. They even chose to mess with it after he’d quit, an indignity which just went to show that when art met money, it was the green that always won.

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