The Velvet Underground

White Light/White Heat

Song Review by

Like "Waiting for the Man," "White Light/White Heat" is now regarded among the all-time classic rock songs, not to mention one of the most frequently covered. David Bowie cut perhaps the definitive version for a 1972 BBC session (Gary Numan can be blamed for one of the most lamentable), while Lou Reed himself has constantly returned to it, with his most notable reinvention the blinding semi-metal rendition featured on his 1974 Rock and Roll Animal live album. Usually regarded as another of Reed's drug experience numbers, "White Light/White Heat" is, perhaps, the quintessential Velvet Underground song, representing everything that the band itself is said to personify. Recorded at the end of a wearying bout of roadwork, it is the sound of a group kicking out all their frustrations, turning the amps up full and watching them bleed. The song could be about anything -- it is the energy that captivates. Nevertheless, it proved a sad choice for a single, as Sterling Morrison later admitted: "[It] was banned every place. And when it was banned in San Francisco, we said 'the hell with it.'"

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
White Light/White Heat 1968 Polydor / Verve 2:47
The Velvet Underground 1969 Polydor 0:00
Loaded 1970 Warner Bros. 0:00
Golden Archive Series 1970 MGM Records / Sundazed 2:47
No Image 1973 Pride 2:44
The Best of the Velvet Underground: Words and Music of Lou Reed 1989 Polydor / Verve 2:45
What Goes On? 1993 Raven 2:48
Hard Rock Essentials: 1960's 1995
Various Artists
Rebound Records 2:44
Peel Slowly and See 1995 Polydor 2:45
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of The Velvet Underground 2000 Mercury / Polydor 2:47
Classic Velvet Underground: The Universal Masters Collection 2000 Polygram / Polydor 2:47
An Introduction to the Velvet Underground 2001 Polygram 2:47
Gold 2005 Polydor 2:48
Chronicles 2005 Polydor 2:47
The Very Best of the Velvet Underground 2006 Universal / Um3 2:47
The Velvet Underground Story 2006 Polydor / Universal Distribution 2:48
Rock Legends 2008 Polydor 2:46
Playlist Plus 2008 Polydor 2:46
Icon 2011 Polydor 2:46
Greatest Ever! Rock Guitars 2012
Various Artists
Greatest Ever 2:46
Bowie Heard Them Here First
Various Artists
Ace 2:46
No Image Universal 2:46