The song in its native form, on the 1967 record The Velvet Underground and Nico, was already loose, raw and gritty, as Lou Reed howls stridently and plays a jittery, almost Middle Eastern–inflected solo over Sterling Morrison’s chugging boogie-woogie guitar.
Casablancas ups the distortion quotient considerably, but does a pretty faithful impression of Reed’s speak-sing rapping. But instead of a Jackson Pollack–splattered guitar solo, he sticks to smoothly transitioning, yet less imaginative, blues-rock twists in the solo – with the occasional dive-bomb and flutter-picking for good measure.
Casablancas previously penned a tribute to the Velvet Underground as part of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists list. “In the beginning, the Strokes definitely drew from the vibe of the Velvets,” he wrote. “I listened to Loaded all the time when we started the band, while I was writing my first songs. For four solid months, it was just Loaded and this Beach Boys greatest hits record, Made in the U.S.A. A lot of our guitar tones are based on what Reed and Sterling Morrison did. I honestly wish we could have copied them more.”
The Velvet Underground’s John Cale, who played bass on the original recording, will soon also be putting a new spin on the tune. He will be leading a program with the Philharmonie de Paris on April 3rd in which he and as-yet-unannounced guest musicians will reinterpret his recordings with the group in Paris.
“We will have a lot of young artists, and some French artists doing the material,” Cale told Rolling Stone earlier this month. “We’re just doing ‘Banana’ [The Velvet Underground and Nico] and White Light/White Heat.” At the time, though, he said he was working on arrangements and was unsure how the project would evolve.