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Listened to with five decades of perspective, the most shocking aspect of the Velvet Underground's 1967 debut aren't its taboo-busting songs about hard drugs and hard sex, but the songs themselves. And sometimes the noise. Combining Lou Reed's skills honed as a staff songwriter at Pickwick Records, the possibilities of John Cale's time exploring drones with La Monte Young and the austere, nearly cymbal-less drumming of Maureen Tucker, The Velvet Underground Nico became a singular and slow-selling cornerstone in an alternative unfolding of rock history. Traces of the album that launched a thousand bands can be found in Reed's contemporaries like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, as well as successive generations of snotty aesthetes from proto-punks, punks, post-punks and art-rockers from Jonathan Richman and Patti Smith, to R.E.M. to modern indie rock. Mixing viola chaos with Bo Diddley beats and the odd song that could be played at a wedding, The Velvet Underground Nico linked high art aspirations with rock roll tenderness and discovered a new continent in between.