Music Corner: “Venus In Furs” by The Velvet Underground

by "Penguin" Pete Trbovich on September 06th, 2018 | , | ,

We’re revisiting Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem in anticipation of his upcoming film. In that review, we have to zoom in on the song “Venus In Furs,” used in the movie’s soundtrack, because there’s just too much of a nexus of cool layers of synergy and frission in horror culture to ignore.

To begin with, Venus In Furs was an 1870 novella written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, to whose name we owe the word “sadomasochism” and a big chunk of BDSM culture. And while horror fandom isn’t particularly kinky, at least not in a way noted by scientific studies yet, there’s obviously some cultural crossover.

Now enter the late Lou Reed, founding member of the much-storied band The Velvet Underground. This is the band credited with massive cultural influence that well out-shone their paltry record sales – obligatory Brian Eno paraphrased quote: “The Velvet Underground & Nico sold only 30,000 copies in its early years, but everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Lou Reed himself confided that the name of the band came from a book of the same title, which was also about BDSM culture. Note that Reed himself bore no claim to whips, chains, and the St. Andrew’s cross; he just thought it was funny and it was all about the counter-culture with him, so it aligned with his aesthetic.

“Venus In Furs” was a song on that 1967 debut album. Yeah, verily, again, The Velvet Underground didn’t intend to become the stereotypical band to play at a BDSM play-party, they just used the book as a decadent template to produce an exotic song from, sounding like a trip to a southeast Asian opium den. But damned if that song hasn’t become the anthem of the sexual revolution anyway.

Venus In Furs is also the title of Jess Franco‘s 1969 film – and fancy that, the director best known for mixing sex and horror to the point where his body of work could be described as “porn with some plastic vampire fangs thrown in” couldn’t resist adapting Sacher-Masoch’s work.

Given that The Velvet Underground was under the tutelage of Andy Warhol and hence tied into the heartbeat of the 1960s counterculture scene from New York, “Venus In Furs” and all the tributary works it spawned have since seeped into cultures as diverse as Fluxus (via New York art scene), LGBTQ culture (via alternative lifestyles), horror film (you are here), punk rock (VU is credited with partly birthing the genre), and arthouse media everywhere. Invoking the mere name of the novel is good enough to hang a shingle saying “counterculture here.”

BONUS BUCK: Did you know Siouxsie and The Banshees did a cover of this song? Of course you did, but they bear mentioning, do they not?

http://www.penguinpetes.com/

Writer, artist, prophet, cult leader. Take good care of my memes. I’ve raised them since they were daydreams.

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