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Why is The Velvet Underground so influential?

When you were in high school you remember having a friend who nobody else really liked and was really into music.  Chances are, this person wore all sorts of weird clothes, probably sported all sorts of weird haircuts.  But fast-forward 20, 30 or even 50 years, it may well turn out that one weird friend of yours actually influenced a lot of people.  It may turn out that high school friend of yours, who seemed so geeky and so out there all that long ago, was actually way before his or her time.  This is usually the impression people get with The Velvet Underground.  This was the band that was launched in the mid 1960s in New York.  Very few people heard about them when they were still together.  In fact, they were often dismissed as simply groupies or just hangers-on of the famous pop artist Andy Warhol.

A lot of people thought that The Velvet Underground was just a joke.  It really was quite interesting because the moment they disbanded, their influence started to grow overtime.  They influenced punk rock, new wave, all sorts of electronic dance music; and their influence continues to the present day.  Now you’ll be asking yourself, “What’s so influential about The Velvet Underground?”  I mean, if you listen to a lot of their music, you could safely say that 40 to even 60 percent of their tracks can be dated to the 1960s.  Well, it really all boils down to attitude.  If there’s anything that The Velvet Underground and similar acts contributed to the greater rock cultural landscape, it is their attitude.  They threw aside the whole Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ corporate-structured rock ethos.  Instead, they told people through their music that you can be weird, abnormal or unusual; and that’s perfectly okay because deep down inside, all of us have something we’re trying to hide.

When nobody else is looking, we all have parts of our personalities that we are somehow, someway trying to cover up and feel guilty for.  Nobody is immune to this, and when you listen to this band’s music, you really zero in on your vulnerabilities.  The things that make you special and weird, those are the things that they celebrate.  Those are the things that they focus on, and that’s why a lot of people are so amazed and inspired by The Velvet Underground. They were not looking to create some sort of sleek, well-packaged appearance.  They’re definitely not trying to go along together on.  Instead of running away from things that make people weird, awkward, unusual or even flat-out abnormal, they actually turned around and embraced those things.  In other words, they wore their vulnerability like a shield.  In many cases, they even wielded it like a sword.  This was completely unheard of, and that attitude continuous to this day in the form of the alternative music scene.

Back in the day, alternative music basically put you in the outcast category in high school.  If you’re into The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, any kind of emo or Goth music, people would look at you as weird.  They would look at you with the sense of dread or make you feel that you really don’t belong. Well, you fast-forward to the early 90s when Nirvana got all big, and we’re still living in the wake of the influence of Nirvana.  Nirvana, which was highly influenced by The Velvet Underground, took everything that was weird, unusual, abnormal and otherwise awkward about our childhoods and celebrated them.  We have no one to thank but The Velvet Underground for this amazing music revolution.