David Bowie covers “White Light / White Heat” from Velvet Underground

(Credit: CBS / Mick Rock)


In the 70s, in addition to being Ziggy Stardust and shaking up the rock and roll scene, David Bowie also found time to save the careers of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mott The Hoople with his impeccable work on the mixer. . . Bowie was clearly an inspiration to the acting trio but, in truth, he was only returning the favor, especially with his friend and collaborator Lou.

Bowie was massively influenced by Lou Reed and his work with The Velvet Underground. He brought rock and roll into a new era and essentially defined the alt-pop genre without ever breaking a sweat – or even knowing he was doing it at all. The group has even been credited on Bowie’s Hunky-dory after inspiring the lyrics to ‘Queen Bitch’. The flame-haired alien from space took away much of the VU’s references in the new decade and turned their hoarse sound into something beautifully glittering and utterly decadent.

There’s no better example than with this brilliant cover of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light / White Heat” from Bowie’s 1972 sessions with the legendary John Peel. Shared to the masses ahead of the release of Lou Reed’s seminal solo album, a record that saw Bowie at the helm, the transformation of this song into something entirely “Bowie” would see the writing on the wall for the new Reed’s LP.

It’s a scintillating, screaming take on the song which, if left in its purest forms, is a simple ditty about intravenous amphetamine use, but when given to Bowie it is. pushed into a new dimension. Prior to the session below, however, Bowie had already been playing the song for quite some time. It was a staple on his platter and became a fan favorite.

The song had featured throughout the Ziggy Stardust Tour (including a performance with Lou Reed on July 8, 1972) and was to be included on his next album. Pin up. Despite this, the Ziggy Stardust – The Movie This project was the first time the song had seen the light of day on record and was therefore released as a single in 1973. Keeping up with ‘Let’s Dance’ was always going to be a tough business and the track was exploding in the charts.

Frankly, we don’t care because anyone with a good ear can listen to this track and knows for sure that it was a must have for any muso. The track is revisited from the energy of Bowie and Ronson’s electric vision. Given the proper influence to push it to the top of the power spectrum, ‘White Light / White Heat’ becomes a symphonic glam-rock masterpiece.

Listen below to David Bowie performing “White Light / White Heat” from Velvet Underground in 1972.


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