Nov 162012

“Sunday morning…”

I didn’t realize the last time this discussion came up in the Halls of Rock was prior to the launch of the public blog. Few of you remain active from those days, so I’ll raise a question I’ve still not received a satisfactory answer to here: Who in The Velvet Underground actually sings “Sunday Morning?”

Wikipedia, which is usually 100% accurate says it’s Nico. I’ve seen elsewhere on the Web, those parts aside from Wikipedia, which are usually 97% accurate, that although the song was written for Nico, Lou sang it. There are even other folks beside me who are not sure about this question.

Personally, I think it’s neither Nico nor Lou. I think Doug Yule actually made his first appearance with the Velvet Underground a few years earlier than his official entry on the third album. We’ve tried to get Doug to do an interview with us to no avail. Maybe he fears being confronted with this question. There’s not a trace of Nico or Lou’s distinctive accents and difficulties with “sealing the deal” on notes. How many recordings of Lou Reed exist, and on how many of them does he sound anything like the person singing this version of “Sunday Morning?” I believe the answer is “0.” It’s got to be Doug! Or Bernard Purdie.

Is anyone willing to step forward to clear this up?


  24 Responses to “Who in The Velvet Underground Actually Sings “Sunday Morning”?”

  1. I thought we had this argument already. It’s Lou. It’s always been Lou. I’ll grant you, he didn’t sing like this before or since. I know it’s impossible, in this day and age, to remember a time when Lou didn’t sing every damn thing in his tuneless “Dirty Blvd.” voice. Just another sign that he did pretty much 99% of his quality work with the Velvets.

    The Wikipedia page I’m looking at says it’s Lou:

  2. I saw that same Wikipedia page, Oats, and although there’s nothing I’m less comfortable doing than proposing that Wiki is wrong for once, I call BULLSHIT ON that “fact.” The guy has put probably 300 vocal performances to tape, and not ONE OTHER PERFORMANCE contains even a line that sounds as pure as the performance on “Sunday Morning.” Since when has Reed shown the slightest “chameleonic” characteristics?

  3. I’ve always though (and still think) it was Lou. He’s just make an effort to sing. Like he did on Sweet Jane.

  4. alexmagic

    Lionel Richie

  5. machinery

    I would say Doug Yule, yet his vocals on “Who loves the sun,” while similar, are more tuneful and high. For this reason I vote Sterling Morrison, who did a lot of background singing. Lou was notoriously hoggish when it came to writing credits. I bet the same holds true for singing credits.

  6. Of course it’s Lou. The reason it doesn’t sound like Lou is the same reason the rest of the recording bears only a glancing resemblance to the other stuff on the album – that was the whole point. I think Tom Wilson was a pretty laissez faire producer, but I think he might have put his foot down (softly) to get what he thought he needed here.

    However, in the alternate quantum universe, where cause an effect and the linear progression of events in time are toppled, Doug Yule is a great answer.

  7. If Wilson was able to get that different a performance out of Reed he may have been the most amazing producer ever. Was it also Wilson who coaxed that “Lay Lady Lay” voice of out Dylan?

    Clearly, I suspect, the wheels were in motion from Day 1 to turn the VU into Yule’s star-making vehicle. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes forward with long-suppressed memos between record execs.

  8. I don’t have any smoking gun type memo but I’d be happy to loan you my copy of Squeeze if you’d like.

  9. jeangray

    Mr. Mod is off of his meds.

  10. hrrundivbakshi

    Kenny Rogers

  11. Bob Johnston was doing the coaxing for Dylan after “Like a Rolling Stone”.

    Also, remember this was the very young Lou Reed, who may have been somewhat less secure in the knowledge of “how his music was meant to sound.”

  12. Also, remember this was the very young Lou Reed, who may have been somewhat less secure in the knowledge of “how his music was meant to sound.”

    Yes, I was thinking this exact same thing. So many artists are at their best when they’re not totally sure what they’re doing.

  13. It’s bad enough I suggested that Wikipedia is wrong in publishing the “fact” that Nico sings lead on this song, now you’ve got to doubt Lou’s self-assurance?

    Is there anything in the man’s history to suggest that he can be anything but himself, as he was meant to sound and look? Christ, beside the brief bleached hair period and his even briefer Ben Franklin Mullet phase, he’s maintained the same Look for all these years.

  14. Someone around here must have voice recognition software. Analyze the sound waves and whatever else they do on those detective shows/films and tell me there are any similarities between the singer of “Sunday Morning” and Lou Reed.

  15. cliff sovinsanity

    A good comparison to this Lou voice is the many versions of the “Ocean”

  16. Suburban kid

    You mean the recording of this song has never been discussed in 45 years of interviews and books about an otherwise overexamined band?

  17. Suburban kid

    But Lou sounded like he was meant to sound on those Primitives and Beachnuts singles from before VU.

  18. I’ve always thought that this song had been sped up. I dont know if it was by accident of on purpose but I know that the mastering for the original vinyl was a complete atrocity. The speed up would make Lou’s vocals sound cartoony which just exaggerates his already cartoony vocal delivery on it.

    As for not having any “Lou” characteristics on it, I dunno. The way he slides into notes, or slides out of notes where he’ll hold a note for a second and then flat out, even his general cadence is all over this. I just think he sang it wonky either to mimic how Nico was supposed to sing it or to appease Andy.

    Here it is about two steps down from how it appears on the album. Its not the best sounding but I did this in a hurry.

  19. ooops

    wrong one got posted above

  20. patrock, unlike others around here who simply thumbed their nose at my skepticism, you thumbed your nose at me and then took the recording to RTH Labs for some high-tech analysis! I think you’re onto something. I can totally buy “Sunday Morning” being Lou sped up, as opposed to simply Lou on speed. Thank you for possibly settling this question.

  21. Lou Reed’s hair has alway known how it was meant to look. The blonde dye job was done under protest. And probably heroin.

  22. well cool!

    I remember thinking about the strange sound of the guitar solo on this song which lead me to trying to learn to play it ….and then I had to try and tune my guitar to make it work. At that point I thought it was probably sped up …..but then I scored the original 1st pressing of the album, I think it’s “Venus In Furs”, but the first like 40 seconds of the song is a little slow and really quiet then all of a sudden it changes. The person who mastered it probably thought they were complete garbage and nobody would be able to tell or even care. I mean this album came out the same year as “Revolver” and VU was singing about shooting dope, beating your tranny hooker girlfriend and BDSM so……

  23. I’m very surprised anyone even questions this. It is very recognizably the young Lou Reed. Lou was always a good mimic, and he’s clearly trying to do what Nico does. But it’s a fact that Lou sings the lead.
    I’m also surprised how many people like the song. To me, it’s a low point of the album.

  24. Thanks for finding us and contributing to the discussion, Ben! To keep the discussion flowing, seriously, can you cite another example of Lou Reed mimicking another singer or artist? I’ve never thought of him as having any skills at mimicking other artists. And please don’t cite “The Original Rapper”:)

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