Wednesday, December 29, 2010


"Heroin" is a song by The Velvet Underground, released on their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Written by Lou Reed in 1964, the song is one of the band's most celebrated compositions, overtly depicting heroin use and abuse. Critic Mark Deming writes, "While 'Heroin' hardly endorses drug use, it doesn't clearly condemn it, either, which made it all the more troubling in the eyes of many listeners".

It was among a three-song set to be re-recorded at T.T.G. Studios, Hollywood before being included on the final release of The Velvet Underground & Nico (along with "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Venus in Furs"). This recording of the song would be the album's second longest at 7 minutes and 12 seconds, being eclipsed only by "European Son" by about thirty seconds.

"Heroin" begins slowly with Lou Reed's quiet, melodic guitar and hypnotic drum patterns by Maureen Tucker, soon joined by John Cale's droning electric viola and Sterling Morrison's steady rhythm guitar. The tempo increases gradually, mimicking the high the narrator receives from the drug, until a frantic crescendo is reached, punctuated by Cale's shrieking viola and the more punctuated guitar strumming of Reed and Morrison. Tucker's drumming becomes hurried and louder. The song then slows to the original tempo, and repeats the same pattern before ending.

Maureen Tucker actually got lost during the recording and stopped drumming for several moments at the five minutes seventeen seconds mark, before picking up the beat again. This coincidental pause came at a dramatic shift in the song, however, and her "mistake" remains an essential element of the song.

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