In January 1968, the Velvet Underground was in the middle of a career revaluation. This followed the disappointing sales of 1967’s the Velvet Underground & Nico, as well as the parting of the ways from both Andy Warhol and Nico. And the change would be apparent on the band’s second album.
Unlike the Velvet Underground & Nico, White Light/White Heat displayed a more distorted and darker sound, or as vocalist and guitarist Sterling Morrison described it as “consciously anti-beauty”. The sound would be the result from the bands extensive touring throughout 1967, which featured a lot of noisy improvisations, which would become key to the record. Another reflective change was the Velvet Underground’s choice of producer. Instead of John Cale, who produced the Velvet Underground & Nico (and is the band’s founding member), the band chose Tom Wilson to help construct the distorted sounds that White Light/White Heat would be known for.
White Light/White Heat did share a few similarities with the Velvet Underground & Nico. First there were the themes of the tracks including “Lady Godiva’s Operation”, the title track and “Sister Ray”, were varied between sexual references and drug use. And like the previous album, White Light/White Heat also sold poorly, peaking at number 199 on the charts. However, the album became influential in both punk and experimental rock that would later follow throughout the years since its 1968 release. And on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, the album is ranked as one of the top 300.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: the Velvet Underground, inducted in 1996.