“White Light/White Heat” is a song by American avant-garde rock band The Velvet Underground, the title track on their second album, released in 1968. It is a fast, relentlessly aggressive start to the album, similar to the punk rock genre it would ultimately influence.
The song’s vocals are performed primarily by Lou Reed, with John Cale and Sterling Morrison performing backing vocals. The song, much like “I’m Waiting for the Man”, features pounding rock-and-roll Barrelhouse-style piano. The song is about the sensations produced by intravenous injection of methamphetamine and features a heavily distorted electric bass outro played by John Cale over a single chord. This bass solo purportedly mimics the throbbing, ear-ringing effects experienced during the methamphetamine “rush.”
“White Light/White Heat” was released in 1968 as a single with the B-side “Here She Comes Now”. “White Light/White Heat” was also a staple of the Velvet Underground’s live performances from 1967 on. The tune appears on numerous live bootleg albums, and the nearly nine minute version included on the group’s posthumous 1969 Live double LP is one of the album’s centerpieces.
Reed also recorded a live version of the song in 1974, which is featured on his Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and Greatest Hits albums.