"European Son" is a song written and performed by the American experimental rock band The Velvet Underground. It appears as the final track on their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. It is also the album's longest track at more than seven and a half minutes.
The song could be seen as a precursor to the band's next album White Light/White Heat and certainly to the song "Sister Ray", a seventeen-minute-long rock improvisation.
"European Son" is dedicated by the band to Delmore Schwartz, a literary mentor of singer Lou Reed. Wanting to dedicate a song to Schwartz, "European Son" was chosen because it had the fewest lyrics (rock-and-roll lyrics being something Schwartz abhorred). The first pressing of The Velvet Underground & Nico referred to the song as "European Son (to Delmore Schwartz)".
The song was recorded in April 1966, and Schwartz died alone in Manhattan three months later on July 14. According to musicologist Richard Witts, the song "reads like little more than a song of loathing" to Schwartz, who refused to see Reed while living out his last days in a rundown midtown New York hotel. Witts highlighted obscure personal details in lyrics such as "You made your wallpapers green" and found the Dylanesque "hey, hey, bye bye bye" lyric to bid "a malicious farewell to its subject".
The song begins with two stanzas of lyrics sung by Lou Reed over a Chuck Berry riff, then after the first minute or so a loud crash is heard (caused by John Cale hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair). There follows a six-minute instrumental improvisation, making use of distortion and feedback.
A slowed-down version of the song's bass line appears on "Moby Octopad" by Yo La Tengo.
Simple Minds recorded a song entitled "European Son" on a demo tape, which was released on CD on The Early Years: 1977-1978. The band Japan also recorded a song with the title "European Son". Both these bands titled the song in tribute to the Velvet Underground song, and have covered other songs by the band (both covering "All Tomorrow's Parties", for one), but neither "European Son" is a cover of the Velvet Underground song.