The Black Angel's Death Song

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"The Black Angel's Death Song"
Song by The Velvet Underground from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
Released March 1967
Recorded April 1966, Scepter Studios,[1] Manhattan
Genre Avant-garde, experimental rock, psychedelic rock[2]
Length 3:11
Label Verve Records
Composer(s) Lou Reed, John Cale
Producer(s) Andy Warhol
The Velvet Underground & Nico track listing
  1. "Sunday Morning"
  2. "I'm Waiting for the Man"
  3. "Femme Fatale"
  4. "Venus in Furs"
  5. "Run Run Run"
  6. "All Tomorrow's Parties"
  7. "Heroin"
  8. "There She Goes Again"
  9. "I'll Be Your Mirror"
  10. "The Black Angel's Death Song"
  11. "European Son"

"The Black Angel's Death Song" is a song by The Velvet Underground, from their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. It was written by Lou Reed and John Cale. The lyrics seem to be written from the perspective of a man or the Black Angel, a figure of death, philosophising about life and death. In a footnote to the lyrics, Lou Reed wrote: "The idea here was to string words together for the sheer fun of their sound, not any particular meaning." [3]

According to Cale, Sterling Morrison refused to play bass on the song because he disliked having to play it on "Venus in Furs",[4] hence, Cale overdubbed the bassline while Morrison stuck to his usual guitar.

The song was an early favorite for the band and is rumored to have led to their meeting with future manager Andy Warhol. In late 1965 the Velvets were booked to play at the Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village, however the gigs did not attract many people (according to Cale the clientele was made up almost exclusively of drunks) and the club's owner insisted on them fulfilling every minute of their booked time, with the final straw being a long gig on Christmas Eve. The band began playing long improvised versions of "Black Angel's Death Song" to the point where they were threatened with the sack if they performed it one more time. On 11 November 1965 The Velvets retorted by playing an even longer version of the song as a grand finale. On their way out they were approached by Warhol—who had been in the audience—and within five months he was producing their debut album.[5]


The song was recorded in April 1966 at Scepter Studios in Manhattan. The music is dominated by the piercing sound of John Cale's electric viola, creating dissonance throughout the song. Also throughout the song are loud bursts of audio feedback, primarily from Cale hissing into the microphone. Reed and Morrison's guitars in the song are downtuned a whole step (as is common with a handful of other songs on The Velvet Underground & Nico).




  1. ^ Discogs - Scepter Records (Manhattan) profile and discography
  2. ^ J. DeRogatis, Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock (Milwaukie, Michigan: Hal Leonard, 2003), ISBN 0-634-05548-8, p. 80.
  3. ^ Lou Reed, Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed (Viking, 1992), ISBN 0-670-84532-9, p. 7.
  4. ^ Tom Pinnock (18 September 2012). "John Cale on The Velvet Underground & Nico". Uncut. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Fricke, David (1995). The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See. Polydor. p. 17. 
  6. ^ "Full Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico » Cover Me". Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  7. ^ "The Black Keys, Black Angels in Concert". NPR. 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  8. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Morrissey". 2009-12-04. Retrieved 2013-10-27.