The Black Angel's Death Song

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"The Black Angel's Death Song"
Song by the Velvet Underground
from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
ReleasedMarch 12, 1967 (1967-03-12)
RecordedApril 1966
StudioScepter, New York City[1]
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed, John Cale
Producer(s)Andy Warhol

"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. 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 not popular with clubs, according to Reed in a Matrix rendition of the song ("As a matter of fact, when a club wanted to close for a while, they would get in touch with us and ask us to play this song.") In late 1965, Al Aronowitz arranged for the Velvets to play at the Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village for a fortnight in December 1965;[5] while there, they played a "furious" version of "Black Angel's Death Song"; the manager ordered them not to play that song again, to which the band responded by playing it again "with a vengeance", and were sacked.[6]


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 (dropped tuning) 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. ^ Per Steinar Lie. "The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol story". University of Groningen.
  6. ^ Fricke, David (1995). The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See. Polydor. p. 17.
  7. ^ "Full Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico » Cover Me". Retrieved 2013-10-27.
  8. ^ "The Black Keys, Black Angels in Concert". NPR. 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  9. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Morrissey". 2009-12-04. Retrieved 2013-10-27.