To call the Velvet Underground ahead of their time has become one of those phrases that have been repeated into meaninglessness. It’s what lazy writers reflexively say when they think they don’t need to unpack or defend their position. But when I approach with focus and try to find some new angle or insight, I still find myself saying simply that the Velvets were light years ahead of everyone else. They produced records that sounded like they’d been made inside a filthy closet – hence, the heretical “Closet Mix” of their album. Mainly though, it was the door-opening, literate and subversive songwriting. Lou Reed wrote, with unvarnished intimacy, about things that were then considered very much unspeakable. Even though the late 60’s were saturated with triumphalist anthems about love and personal freedom, and quasi-religious talk about pharmaceutical redemption, there wasn’t very much real talk. No one spoke of a love that was cloaked in shame and self-flagellation, or of the intimate connections that occurred in a void between people who couldn’t meet each others’ eyes or know each others’ names, or that those moments could be beautiful and worthy of a love song. Fifty years later, it still sounds unsettling, in the sense that you’ve opened a door onto something secret and private and tantalizing and unheard of. It’s purely poetic justice that my preferred mix is the Closet Mix.