The Velvet Underground: Loaded – [Record 127]
Loaded is the fourth album by the Velvet Underground, released in November 1970, by Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label, Cotillion. It was the final album recorded featuring Lou Reed, who had left the band shortly before its release. In 2003, Loaded was #109 on Rolling Stone’s reissue of their 500 greatest albums of all time.
1, Who Loves the Sun.
2, Sweet Jane.
3, Rock & Roll.
4, Cool It Down.
5, New Age.
6, Head Held High.
7, Lonesome Cowboy Bill.
8, I Found a Reason.
9, Train Round the Bend.
10, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’.
Background: Loaded was a commercial effort aimed at radio play, another step away from the Warhol-influenced days. The album’s title refers to Atlantic’s request that the band produce an album “loaded with hits”. Doug Yule said, “On Loaded there was a big push to produce a hit single, there was that mentality, which one of these is a single, how does it sound when we cut it down to 3.5 minutes, so that was a major topic for the group at that point. And I think that the third album to a great extent shows a lot of that in that a lot of those songs were designed as singles and if you listen to them you can hear the derivation, like this is sort of a Phil Spector-ish kind of song, or this is that type of person song.”
Reed was critical of the album’s final mix. He left the Velvet Underground on August 23, 1970 but Loaded wasn’t released until three months later, in November. After its release, Reed maintained in interviews that the album had been re-edited and resequenced without his consent.
One of Reed’s sore points resulting from that unauthorized re-editing was that the “heavenly wine and roses” melody was cut out of “Sweet Jane”. In the original recording, this part was intended to provide a perfectly flowing bridge to a full-fledged plagal cadence two-chord version of the chorus (earlier choruses in the song have a 4-chord riff). In Reed’s initial solo performances, he would include the verse (see for instance American Poet), until 1973, when he would routinely leave it out, as the bridge fits less well in a more hard rock version (as heard for instance on Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal). However, the post-Reed, Doug Yule-led Velvets always performed the song with the verse re-inserted. A career-spanning retrospective of Reed’s recordings with the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, NYC Man (The Ultimate Collection 1967–2003), which Reed compiled himself, uses the shorter version. When asked about the shortened versions of “Sweet Jane” and “New Age” and Reed’s long-standing claims that they were re-edited without his consent, Yule claimed that Reed had in-fact edited the songs himself. “He edited it. You have to understand at the time, the motivation was… Lou was, and all of us were, intent on one thing and that was to be successful and what you had to do to be successful in music, was you had to have a hit, and a hit had to be uptempo, short, and with no digressions, straight ahead basically, you wanted a hook and something to feed the hook and that was it. “Sweet Jane” was arranged just exactly the way it is on the original Loaded release exactly for that reason—to be a hit! ‘Who Loves The Sun’ was done exactly that way for that reason—to be a hit.”
Reed also felt snubbed by being listed third in the credits on the album; and by the large photo of Yule playing piano; and by all the songwriting credits improperly going to the band, rather than Reed himself. Newer releases have satisfied many of Reed’s concerns — he is now properly acknowledged as the sole songwriter for the album; he is listed at the top of the band line-up and, since the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See, another mix is available, restoring “Sweet Jane”, “Rock & Roll” and “New Age” to the full-length versions Reed had originally penned.
The album does not feature Velvet Underground stalwart drummer Maureen Tucker, as she was pregnant at the time (she is still credited on the album sleeve, however). Drumming duties were performed mainly by bassist Doug Yule, recording engineer Adrian Barber, session musician Tommy Castanero and Doug Yule’s brother Billy. Lou Reed has commented that “Loaded didn’t have Maureen on it, and that’s a lot of people’s favorite Velvet Underground record, so we can’t get too lost in the mystique of the Velvet Underground… It’s still called a Velvet Underground record. But what it really is is something else.” Sterling Morrison had strong feelings about Yule’s increased presence on Loaded, saying: “The album came out okay, as far as production it’s the best, but it would have been better if it had real good Lou vocals on all the tracks.” Doug Yule claimed that “Lou leaned on me a lot in terms of musical support and vocal arrangements. I did a lot on Loaded. It sort of devolved down to the Lou and Yule recreational recording”. Of the ten songs that make up Loaded, Yule’s lead vocals were featured on four songs: “Who Loves the Sun”, “New Age”, “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”, and “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”.
Original copies of the album have no silence in between the first two songs, “Who Loves the Sun” and “Sweet Jane”, with the first note of the latter being heard at the precise moment the former completely fades. Some later pressings break the segue with the insertion of a few seconds of silence. All CDs of Loaded retain the original segue without the silence.
Reception: In 2003, Loaded was #109 on Rolling Stone’s reissue of their 500 greatest albums of all time.
The album holds two well-known Velvet Underground songs: “Sweet Jane” and “Rock & Roll”. These two Velvet Underground songs are still heard regularly on classic rock FM radio stations.
The album was covered live in its entirety by rock band Phish as one of their “Halloween musical costume” concerts on October 31, 1998.
In 2012, lead guitarist Graham Coxon cited Loaded as an influence on Blur.