800 Copies: Meet The World’s Most Obsessive Fan Of ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’

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A record from Mark Satlof’s collection of Velvet Underground records and ephemera. This was Mark’s first collected record, and it features a signature from Lou Reed.
Christopher Gregory for NPR

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The Velvet Underground and Nico, released 50 years ago tomorrow (there is actually some disagreement on the exact date), is the definitive way-ahead-of-its-time album. With a near-peerless collection of songs — nearly all written by frontman Lou Reed — and an iconic, banana-sticker cover designed by band benefactor Andy Warhol, this jarring and innovative collection was initially a cult success at best, with no hit singles and a “peak” of No. 171 on Billboard’s albums chart in December 1967. But the world eventually caught up with it, and for the past 30 years it’s had perennial placement on best-ever lists, including No. 13 on Rolling Stone’s 2012 “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” tally.

It’s the first album to truly combine a novelist’s gritty realism with equally confrontational rock music, yet it’s also a fount of soft, vulnerable songs like “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” — songs that are all the more poignant because you can sense, somehow, that the sensitive soul who wrote them is also kind of an asshole.

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