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How in the World are they Making that Sound?

OK, so why did no-one tell me that Jonathan Richman — of whom I am, or used to be, a fan — released a song back in 1992 or so, called “Velvet Underground”? I’ve been a fan of them since long before it was cool, as you know.1

OK, so though Jonathan wrote the mighty “Roadrunner” (and apparently was called by some, “The Godfather of Punk”, though I thought that was Iggy), he later moved to a much more mellow, quieter sound. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t always want to to be listening to the loudest stuff.2

But anyway, it turns out that there’s this song about the Velvet Underground, which is cool as fuck, as you might expect. Jonathan, of course, has been associated with the Velvets since the early days, roadieing for them and whatnot. So who better to write a song that tries to evoke the startling, shocking effect they had on people, on the music scene, back in 1966 or so?

Here’s his description of John Cale in action:

A spooky tone on a Fender bass
Played less notes and left more space
Stayed kind of still, looked kinda shy
Kinda far away, kinda dignified

They were “America at its best,” he says, and who could disagree? If you haven’t heard it, it’s on Apple Music, Spotify and even YouTube, where I understand the younglings like to go.

Both guitars got the fuzz tone on
The drummer’s standing upright pounding along
A howl, a tone, a feedback whine
Biker boys meet the college kind

After one of the choruses where he sings, “How in the world were they making that sound?/Velvet Underground,” he says, “Like this,” and launches into a verse of “Sister Ray.” It’s all very, very cool.


  1. Though to be fair, I should thank a group of friends from school that I’m not in touch with anymore for getting me into them. But let’s leave that aside for now. 

  2. Though let’s face it, we mostly do. If there was a god, and it didn’t want us to listen to loud music, then why would it have invented amplification? 

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