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The Velvet Undergound's Squeeze

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There are few things more frustrating or enticing than the knowledge that some people are able to listen to music that you cannot. The music fan that has obtained access to vaulted materials, or a pre-released copy of an album, or maybe just an rare piece of vinyl that you aren't willing to shell out the excessive ebay prices for can be one of the most obnoxious people you will ever encounter. You know why, of course. Whatever they have heard and you have not is undoubtedly the artist in questions "greatest work" or a "lost classic" or "superior in every way to the version they released...you know, the version that you listen to." The internet has lessened the divide between the lost classic elitist and regular Joes a bit. Brian Wilson's Smile, for example was far easier for a casual fan to research and track down on various website than it would have been a decade ago when it circulated on patched together mix tapes. Smile, of course, was also one of the rare lost works where the elitists opinion was right.

I think it is time to extend the debate to the masses on another album that many people are unable to listen to: The Velvet Underground's "Squeeze." Squeeze is the infamous "last" Velvet Underground album, released after all original members save for Doug Yule had gone their separate ways. It is long out of print, and was available only on vinyl, copies of which sell for around 40 to 60 dollars on ebay. This super rare status of the album by one of the most name-droppable bands of all time makes me positive that there is at least one person out there who have assumed the contratian position that Squeeze is the Velvet Underground's greatest work.

If there are indeed people out there who believe this, it should be noted right off the bat that they are wrong. However, I feel like the album is not an outright disgrace. Towards the end of the Velvet Undergrounds career, their sound shifted immensely as members other than Lou Reed or John Cale got involved. I think this is a good thing, as the world needs more "Sweet Janes" and "Rock and Rolls" and less "The Gifts." The album Loaded features several prominent songs where Doug Yule sings, and much of Squeeze sounds like it could have come from the same sessions that produced Loaded's "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" or "New Age."

So Yule obviously had the "generic late era Velvet Undergound" sound thing down, all the way to the backing Lou Reed style vocals on songs like "Caroline" and "Friends." But if you look at the credits for Loaded, the wrting is still all Lou Reed, (he shares credit on only one song.) Yule could write a catchy sounding tune, but songs such as the Rock and Roll/Sweet Jane sequel creatively titled "Jack & Jane" and the idiocy of "Dopey Joe" demonstrate his struggles with lyrics. Taken as a whole album, the mediocrity of the album can be a bit underwhelming, but if these songs had been included on the Peel Slowly and See box set, or the deluxe edition of Loaded, I bet that few people would be able to identify them as outliers.

But I think that the debate deserves to be a bit more widespread than just what I think. Last.fm statistics show that between 60 and 120 people have listened to the songs from Squeeze. Compare that to the more than 20,000 people who have listened to other VU songs such as "Heroin," "I'm Waiting For The Man" or even "Sunday Morning." That's why I have put this zip file of the MP3s from Squeeze up on the site. I believe they are a vinyl rip, but the quality is acceptable, and I don't believe that you'll be able to find a better digital copy. So download, take a listen to what Doug Yule hath wrought and once you've heard for yourself, head on down to the record store and tell that ultra-hip clerk that you're finally calling his bullshit.

Comments

Thank you for putting these up. Although I'd heard of, I'd never actually heard this album. Thanks!

Well done, mate - really interesting post. I've always wanted to hear 'Squeeze'. Thanks!

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