Black Angel's Death Song

Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song covers a variety of topics but the main one has to do with Communism. Lou Reed was and is today an avid supporter of choice, hence all the mentions of choice and choosing. Some of the failed attempts at Communism are mentioned as well. When Reed says, "To the cozy brown snow of the east" and "Not a ghost bloodied country," these are blatant references to Russia and the USSR. Reed was trying to say that Communism will never and should never exist in a modern-day society. (This analysis was completed by Matt Skaroff and Colin Rementer)
  • According to The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side, this song, written by Lou Reed and John Cale, features Cale on the electric viola, showing his John Cage influence and drone/noise style. Here his dissonant notes weave around the song like a buzzing mosquito, almost harassing it. Those bursts of audio feedback are also provided by Cale, who simply blew into the microphone at punctuated intervals.
  • "The Black Angel's Death Song" was one of four songs recorded in July 1965 for the still-forming group's first demo tape. They were inspired at the time by recordings which Cale had brought back from a trip to the UK, by groups such as The Who and The Kinks.
  • The Velvet Underground's original drummer was Angus MacLise, a neighbor of Cale's who sometimes played drums with the Theater of Eternal Music. Shortly after recording the demo session that included this song, MacLise quit the group, who was an idealistic purist who disliked the idea of being paid to play music or of having to keep a schedule. He was replaced by Maureen "Moe" Tucker, and the rest is history.
  • The The Velvet Underground & Nico album was partly recorded at the run-down Scepter Recording Studio, on West 54th Street, financed by Warhol and bankrolled in part by Columbia Records sales executive Norman Dolph. Dolph also served as engineer, along with John Licata. The rest of the album was recorded in T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, California with engineer Omi Haden.
  • The Black Angels, a psychedelic rock band from Austin, Texas which formed in 2004, derived their name from this song. This echoes the most famous quote about the Velvet Underground, "Only five thousand people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them started a band."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 10

  • Subs from Nyc"To the cozy brown snow of the east" is a reference to heroin. Not communism. Come on.
  • Arlette from Corona, CaG.T. is the brand of the knife.
  • Chloe from St. Louis, MoSlightly Bob Dylan-y.
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiReed says that this song wasn't really supposed to be about anything, just words put together for the way they sound.
  • Edward from London, EnglandJust for Steve, I stumbled on G.T. as well. Gran Turismo? To be honest I have never understood the song either but I find the connection to Communism a rather clumsy one.
  • Paul from Cincinnati, OhThis song has a very cinematic feel and seems to kind of cement the epic sweep of the album since it's near the end. This is one of several songs on the album that constructively (as opposed to simply abusively) uses noise. There's a sort of brief white noise sound that occurs several times throughout the song. This is definitely the most lyrically obscure song on an album whose lyrics are mostly easily understood. It's interesting that this is interpreted to be about Russia. I just assumed that he meant the east coast of America when he said the east, but I'll defer to the likely more knowledgable opinion of the SongFacts contributers.
  • Steve from -----, Padoes any one know what he means by g.t. "On a long splintered cut from the knife of G.T."
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiThe lyrics sound like they're about something extremely cryptic, and this song has an overall sound that's spooky as hell. When I first heard this song, it scared the $h!t out of me in the coolest way. I love it!
  • Spencer from Rhode Islandthis is a great song. some people might say it's hard to listen to, but i love it.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI've seen the title written as "The Black Angel's Death Song." Which one is correct. Btw, the viola in this is cool. it adds to the mood I think.
see more comments

Corey HartSongwriter Interviews

The Canadian superstar talks about his sudden rise to fame, and tells the stories behind his hits "Sunglasses At Night," "Boy In The Box" and "Never Surrender."

Gary Brooker of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum, Gary talks about finding the musical ideas to match the words.

Chris Fehn of SlipknotSongwriter Interviews

A drummer for one of the most successful metal bands of the last decade, Chris talks about what it's like writing and performing with Slipknot. Metal-neck is a factor.

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

British InvasionFact or Fiction

Go beyond The Beatles to see what you know about the British Invasion.

Kerry Livgren of KansasSongwriter Interviews

In this talk from the '80s, the Kansas frontman talks turning to God and writing "Dust In The Wind."