Which is the worst ever album by a major league rock star or band? You could make a case for a few of The Stones 80s albums, especially Dirty Work, Macca’s Red Rose Speedway, Duran Duran’s Thank You and the musical car crash that was Tin Machine.
One that pops up regularly and really ought not to be on the list is Squeeze by the Velvet Underground. Squeeze was the album recorded in London by Doug Yule on his own with just Ian Paice from Deep Purple for assistance. Lou Reed had left the band after Loaded, Sterling Morrison was long gone too. Only Mo Tucker was notionally still in the band though she didn’t fancy the trip to England to record Squeeze as she had a young child to care for.
Given that it is a Velvet’s album (in name at least) and that Lou Reed isn’t on it Squeeze is often held up as a musical disaster. I think this is largely by musical snobs and hard core Velvet fans who quite possibly haven’t bothered to listen to it. Sure this is not the shining jewel in the Velvet treasure chest, but it isn’t their worst album – that probably goes to White Light.
Although he wasn’t on board from the start Doug Yule actually played a very important role in the Velvets. He was a much more amenable bass player than Cale – and his vocals are all over the band’s third and fourth albums. I was quite shocked to discover the other day that my two favourite Velvet songs that aren’t on that peerless debut – Who Loves the Sun? and Candy Says are both sung by Yule.
Squeeze then is actually a pretty good listen – you can hear it for yourself here on this YouTube video. Musically it is a close cousin of Loaded and on several occasions Yule does uncannily sound like Reed, but there’s a bit more of Beatles influence than Loaded and the band goes deeper into 70s swamp rock than they had before. Suffice to say that had it been by another band it would be a very highly regarded mid 70s rarity.
The one absolute undisputed highlight which should adorn any Velvet’s Greatest Hits is Friends, a gentle ballad that had it made the cut for the third album would be hailed as one of the band’s finest achievements. This really is the Velvets – and the Velvets at their best.
The album’s closer, Louise, is also a very fine Beatley tune with a really great stomping piano finale. Then there’s the compact Crash, which sounds like it is a distant relative of Martha My Dear from the Fabs White album and She’ll Make You Cry which could be a cover of Merseybeat era Fabs classic. Also interesting is Wordless, which has more stomping piano and a very strong hook of a chorus – it would have made a great single. I also have a soft spot for the opener Little Jack which is one of the best steals of The Stones’ Sympathy whoo whoos ever.
Ultimately if you love The Velvets, The Beatles or 70s swamp rock you need to give this album in a spin. If you need any more convincing then look at the comments or the reviews on Amazon. The word that constantly crops up is surprisingly good.
Btw as an interesting postscript check out Doug Yule’s Velvet Underground by Darren Hayman. Harsh words. Maybe he should give it another listen.