Venus in Furs (song)

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"Venus in Furs"
Song by the Velvet Underground
from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
ReleasedMarch 12, 1967 (1967-03-12)
RecordedMay 1966
StudioT.T.G., Hollywood, California
GenreDrone rock[1]
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Andy Warhol
Audio sample
"Venus in Furs"

"Venus in Furs" is a song by the Velvet Underground, written by Lou Reed and originally released on the 1967 album The Velvet Underground & Nico. Inspired by the book of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the song includes sexual themes of sadomasochism, bondage and submission.

"Venus in Furs" was also released as a single on several occasions; in 1988 in the UK and as a live single in France and the UK, in 1993 and 1994 respectively. This live version appears on the 1993 live album Live MCMXCIII.


"Venus in Furs" was one of three songs to be re-recorded, in May 1966 at T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, before appearing on the final mix of The Velvet Underground & Nico (the other two being "Heroin" and "I'm Waiting for the Man"). The arrangement features John Cale's cacophonous electric viola as well as Lou Reed's ostrich guitar, which is a guitar with all of its strings tuned to the same note.[2] The more prominent guitar work is Reed's guitar at standard tuning, albeit a semitone down. Guitarist Sterling Morrison played bass on the song, but according to Cale, who was the band's usual bassist, Morrison never cared for the instrument.[3][4] The backbeat consists of two bass drum beats and one tambourine shake, played at a slow pace by Maureen Tucker.

In his essay "Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground", Erich Kuersten writes:

"There is no intro or buildup to the song; the track starts as if you opened a door to a decadent Marrakesh S&M/opium den, a blast of air-conditioned Middle Eastern menace with a plodding beat that’s the missing link between "Bolero" and Led Zeppelin’s version of "When the Levee Breaks".[5]


Alternate versions[edit]

Ludlow Street Loft, July 1965[edit]

The song was one of several early songs to be recorded by Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison in their Ludlow Street loft during July 1965. This version of the song features a drastically different arrangement than would appear on The Velvet Underground & Nico, and ends with what David Fricke calls a "stark, Olde English-style folk lament" in the liner notes for Peel Slowly and See (the 1995 compilation album upon which the Ludlow demos appear). John Cale provides lead vocals for this demo recording of the song.

Scepter Studios, April 1966[edit]

An alternate take of the song was first recorded at Scepter Studios, New York City before being re-recorded in Hollywood. This take of the song is performed at a quicker pace and the lyrics vary slightly from the T.T.G. recording.

Live recordings[edit]

Live recordings of "Venus in Furs" appear on Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (recorded in San Francisco, December 1969) and on Live MCMXCIII (recorded in Paris, June 1993).

Norman Dolph acetate and Factory rehearsal[edit]

The 2012 deluxe six-CD boxed set, celebrating the album's 45th anniversary features, as Disc 4, the original version of the album, cut to acetate on April 26, 1966, known as the "Norman Dolph acetate". This features a version with more of Cale's viola in the arrangement. Additionally, on the same disc, there is a "fun version" recorded on January 3, 1966, during rehearsals at Warhol's Factory.[6]

In film and TV[edit]

A version of the song was specially recorded by Julian Casablancas for the HBO television series Vinyl. It appeared on the soundtrack of the second episode during a flashback to Andy Warhol's Factory, alongside "Run Run Run".

The song is featured in Rob Zombie's 2012 film The Lords of Salem.

The song is used in the 2015 film A Perfect Day.

The song appears as part of the soundtrack for Gus Van Sant's 2005 film Last Days.

RZA used samples of the song, for his song called "Fatal" played in the final credits of Blade: Trinity, also appears in its soundtrack.

In the British TV series Being Human, the song is used prominently in season 2, episode 5.

A version of the song is performed by the fictional band Nürnberg 47, played by the real Swedish band Reeperbahn, in the 1983 film G (also known as G som i gemenskap)

In 1965, the Velvet Underground appeared in Piero Heliczer's underground film, Venus in Furs, which was named for the song. Heliczer, the Velvets, and the other performers were featured in a CBS News segment titled "The Making of an Underground Film" which aired in December of that year. This brief appearance turned out to be the only network television exposure for either Heliczer or the band.[7][8]

In advertising[edit]

In 1993, the song was used as the soundtrack for a British advertisement for Dunlop Tyres, by the advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and directed by British director Tony Kaye. The advertisement was notable for featuring both fetish and surrealist imagery.[9]

Cover versions[edit]

Lou Reed recorded several solo versions of the song. John Cale also performs it with his band, and with Siouxsie Sioux during the encores of a collaborative tour they did in the US from June to August 1998.[10] In addition, the following artists have recorded it:

Artist Year Appears on album
Paul Gardiner 1984 Non-album single
Melvins 1991 Here She Comes Now / Venus in Furs (split single with Nirvana)[11]
Paul Roland 1992 Strychnine
The Ukrainians 1993 Vorony
Christian Death 1993 Path of Sorrows[12]
The Smashing Pumpkins 1994 Mashed Potatoes[13]
Rosetta Stone 1996 Hiding in Waiting EP
Miłość 1997 Talkin' About Life and Death
Psychopomps 1997 Fiction Non-Fiction
Bettie Serveert 1998 Plays Venus in Furs and Other Velvet Underground Songs
The Creatures 1999 Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Now Buy Zulu
Dave Navarro 2001 Trust No One[14]
Hugh Cornwell 2002 Footprints in the Desert[15]
Berry Sakharof 2003 Berry Sakharof Live (CD 2)
Krieg 2004 The Black House[16]
Trash Palace 2004 Positions[17]
Monster Magnet 2004 Monolithic Baby! (US version bonus track)
DeVotchKa 2006 Curse Your Little Heart EP[18]
Chuck Dukowski Sextet 2006 Eat My Life
Niagara 2006 Beyond the Pale compilation
Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio 2006 Apocalips
Beck 2009 Non-album single[19]
Broken Records 2009 Radio Scotland - Vic Galloway Live Session
Sendelica feat. Alice Davidson 2011 The Pavilion of Magic and the Trials of the Seven Surviving Elohim; previously released on the A Nice Pear EP (2010)
Until the Ribbon Breaks 2015 Los Angeles[citation needed]
Ängie 2018 Suicidal Since 1995
Live 2018 Local 717 EP

Additionally, the early David Bowie composition "Toy Soldier," recorded with his band The Riot Squad in 1967, lifts its chorus almost verbatim from "Venus in Furs." Bowie had received a test pressing of The Velvet Underground and Nico from his manager before the album was officially released.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Segal, Dave. "He's Set Feee". The Stranger. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  2. ^ The ostrich guitar appears at the end of the song.
  3. ^ Hoffman, Eric. "Examinations: An Examination of John Cale". Mental Contagion. Retrieved 24 October 2014. When I had to play viola, Sterling had to play bass, which he hated. According to the website, the quote is from John Cale’s autobiography, What’s Welsh for Zen (NY: St. Martin’s Press (2000).
  4. ^ Tom Pinnock (18 September 2012). "John Cale on The Velvet Underground & Nico". Uncut. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  5. ^ Erich Kuersten. "Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground". Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  6. ^ Robert Lawson (2013). "The Velvet Underground & Nico". Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  7. ^ Lewis, David. "Piero Heliczer". Retrieved October 31, 2014.
  8. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2009). White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day by Day. Jawbone Press. ISBN 978-1-906002-22-0.
  9. ^ "Dunlop 'magician' by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO". Campaignlive. Retrieved 20 May 2012.
  10. ^ Aston, Martin (September 1998). "10 Questions for Siouxsie Sioux". Mojo.
    "John Cale & Siouxsie/the Creatures Venus in Furs Sacramento". youtube. 29 June 1998. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Melvins's Venus in Furs cover of The Velvet Underground's Venus in Furs". Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  12. ^ Allmusic. "The Path of Sorrows review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Full Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico | Cover Me". Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  14. ^ Don Kline. "Trust No One review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  15. ^ "Footprints in the Desert review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  16. ^ "The Black House review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  17. ^ "Positions review on Allmusic". Allmusic.
  18. ^ James Christopher Monger. "Curse Your Little Heart review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  19. ^ "Velvet Underground & Nico "Venus In Furs"". Retrieved 17 July 2013.