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The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground reformed in 1993. From left to right: Morrison (at back), Tucker, Cale and Reed
|Also known as|
|Origin||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Years active||1964–1973, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1996|
The Velvet Underground was an American rock band formed in 1964 in New York City by singer/guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Angus MacLise (replaced by Moe Tucker in 1965). The band was initially active between 1965 and 1973, and was briefly managed by the pop artist Andy Warhol, serving as the house band at the Factory and Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable events from 1966 to 1967. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (with German-born singer and model Nico), was released in 1967 to critical indifference and poor sales but has become critically acclaimed; in 2003, Rolling Stone called it the "most prophetic rock album ever made."
Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.
The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
Lewis Allan Reed was an American musician, singer, songwriter and poet. He was the lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground and had a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground were not a commercial success during their existence, but are now regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of underground and alternative rock music.
The band's integration of rock and the avant-garde achieved little commercial success during its existence, but it is now recognized as one of the most influential bands in rock, underground, experimental, and alternative music. 19 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". In 2017, a study of AllMusic's catalog indicated the Velvet Underground as the fifth most frequently cited artist influence in its database. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 by Patti Smith.The provocative subject matter, musical experiments, and often nihilistic attitudes explored in the band's work proved influential in the development of punk rock and new wave music. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the band No.
The avant-garde are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, and it may offer a critique of the relationship between producer and consumer.
Underground music comprises musical genres beyond mainstream culture. Any song that is not being legally commercialized is considered underground.
Experimental music is a general label for any music that pushes existing boundaries and genre definitions. Experimental compositional practice is defined broadly by exploratory sensibilites radically opposed to, and questioning of, institutionalized compositional, performing, and aesthetic conventions in music. Elements of experimental music include indeterminate music, in which the composer introduces the elements of chance or unpredictability with regard to either the composition or its performance. Artists may also approach a hybrid of disparate styles or incorporate unorthodox and unique elements.
The foundations for what would become the Velvet Underground were laid in late 1964. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Lou Reed had performed with a few short-lived garage bands and had worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records (Reed described his tenure there as being "a poor man's Carole King").Reed met John Cale, a Welshman who had moved to the United States to study classical music upon securing a Leonard Bernstein scholarship. Cale had worked with experimental composers John Cage, Cornelius Cardew and La Monte Young, and had performed with Young's Theatre of Eternal Music, though was also interested in rock music. Young's use of extended drones would be a profound influence on the band's early sound. Cale was pleasantly surprised to discover that Reed's experimentalist tendencies were similar to his own: Reed sometimes used alternative guitar tunings to create a droning sound. The pair rehearsed and performed together; their partnership and shared interests built the path towards what would later become the Velvet Underground.
Garage rock is a raw and energetic style of rock and roll that flourished in the mid-1960s, most notably in the United States and Canada, and has experienced a series of subsequent revivals. The style is characterized by basic chord structures played on electric guitars and other instruments, sometimes distorted through a fuzzbox, as well as often unsophisticated and occasionally aggressive lyrics and delivery. Its name derives from the perception that groups were often made up of young amateurs who rehearsed in the family garage, although many were professional.
Pickwick Records was an American record label and British distributor known for its budget album releases of sound-alike recordings, bargain bin reissues and repackagings under the brands Design, Bravo, Hurrah, Grand Prix, and children's records on the Cricket and Happy Time labels.
Carole King is an American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1958, initially as one of the staff songwriters at the Brill Building and later as a solo artist. She is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the US, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1999. King also wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK, making her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts between 1952 and 2005.
Reed's first group with Cale was the Primitives, a short-lived group assembled to issue budget-priced recordings and support an anti-dance single written by Reed, "The Ostrich", to which Cale added a viola passage. Reed and Cale recruited Sterling Morrison—a college classmate of Reed's at Syracuse University—as a replacement for Walter De Maria, who had been a third member of the Primitives.Reed and Morrison both played guitars, Cale played viola, keyboards and bass and Angus MacLise joined on percussion to complete the initial four-member unit. This quartet was first called the Warlocks, then the Falling Spikes. The Velvet Underground by Michael Leigh was a contemporary mass market paperback about the secret sexual subculture of the early 1960s; Cale's friend and Dream Syndicate associate Tony Conrad showed it to the group, and MacLise made a suggestion to adopt the title as the band's name. According to Reed and Morrison, the group liked the name, considering it evocative of "underground cinema", and fitting, as Reed had already written "Venus in Furs", a song inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's book of the same name, which dealt with masochism. The band immediately and unanimously adopted The Velvet Underground as its new name in November 1965.
Holmes Sterling Morrison, Jr. was an American guitarist, best known as one of the founding members of the rock group the Velvet Underground, usually playing electric guitar, occasionally bass guitar, and singing backing vocals.
Syracuse University is a private research university in Syracuse, New York, United States. The institution's roots can be traced to the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, founded in 1831 by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Lima, New York. After several years of debate over relocating the college to Syracuse, the university was established in 1870, independent of the college. Since 1920, the university has identified itself as nonsectarian, although it maintains a relationship with The United Methodist Church.
Walter Joseph De Maria was an American artist, sculptor, illustrator and composer, who lived and worked in New York City. Walter de Maria's artistic practice is connected with Minimal art, Conceptual art, and Land art of the 1960s.
The newly named Velvet Underground rehearsed and performed in New York City. Their music was generally much more relaxed than it would later become: Cale described this era as reminiscent of beat poetry, with MacLise playing gentle "pitter and patter rhythms behind the drone".
In July 1965, Reed, Cale and Morrison recorded a demo tape at their Ludlow Street loft without MacLise, because he refused to be tied down to a schedule and would only turn up to band practice sessions when he wanted.When he briefly returned to Britain, Cale attempted to give a copy of the tape to Marianne Faithfull, hoping she would pass it on to Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones. Nothing ever came of this, but the demo was eventually released on the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See.
Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull is an English singer, songwriter, and actress. She achieved popularity in the 1960s with the release of her hit single "As Tears Go By" and became one of the lead female artists during the British Invasion in the United States.
Sir Michael Philip Jagger is an English singer, songwriter, actor, and film producer who gained worldwide fame as the lead singer and one of the founder members of the Rolling Stones. Jagger's career has spanned over five decades, and he has been described as "one of the most popular and influential frontmen in the history of rock & roll". His distinctive voice and energetic live performances, along with Keith Richards' guitar style, have been the trademark of the Rolling Stones throughout the band's career. Jagger gained press notoriety for his admitted drug use and romantic involvements, and was often portrayed as a countercultural figure.
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of bandleader Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. The band's primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group's manager. Jones left the band less than a month before his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and continues on guitar in tandem with Richards. Since Wyman's departure in 1993, Darryl Jones has served as touring bassist. The Stones have not had an official keyboardist since 1963, but have employed several musicians in that role, including Jack Nitzsche (1965–1971), Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), and Chuck Leavell (1982–present).
Manager and music journalist Al Aronowitz arranged for the group's first paying gig—$75 ($596 in 2018 dollars ) to play at Summit High School, in Summit, New Jersey, opening for the Myddle Class. When they decided to take the gig, MacLise abruptly left the group, protesting what he considered a sellout; he was also unwilling to be told when to start and stop playing. "Angus was in it for art", Morrison reported.
MacLise was replaced by Maureen "Moe" Tucker, the younger sister of Morrison's friend Jim Tucker. Tucker's playing style was rather unusual: she generally played standing up rather than seated and had an abbreviated drum setup of tom-toms, snare and an upturned bass drum, using mallets as often as drumsticks, and rarely using cymbals (she admits that she always hated cymbals).When the band asked her to do something unusual, she turned her bass drum on its side and played standing up. After her drums were stolen from one club, she replaced them with garbage cans brought in from outside. Her rhythms, at once simple and exotic (influenced by the likes of Babatunde Olatunji and Bo Diddley records), became a vital part of the group's music, despite Cale's initial objections to the presence of a female drummer. The group earned a regular paying gig at the Café Bizarre and gained an early reputation as a promising ensemble.
In 1965, after being introduced to the Velvet Underground by filmmaker Barbara Rubin,Andy Warhol became the band's manager and suggested they use the German-born singer Nico (born Christa Päffgen) on several songs. Warhol's reputation helped the band gain a higher profile. He helped the band secure a recording contract with MGM's Verve Records, with himself as nominal "producer", and gave the Velvets free rein over the sound they created.
During their stay with Andy Warhol, the band became part of his multimedia roadshow, Exploding Plastic Inevitable , which combined Warhol's films with the band's music, which made use of minimalist devices, such as drones. Warhol included the band with his show in an effort to "use rock as a part of a larger, interdisciplinary-art work based around performance" (McDonald).[ full citation needed ] They played shows for several months in New York City, then traveled throughout the United States and Canada until its last installment in May 1967. During a short period in September 1966, when Cale was ill, the avant-garde musician Henry Flynt, and Richard Mishkin, who had played in Reed's first group at university, took turns to cover for him.
The show included 16 mm film projections by Warhol, combined with a stroboscopic-light show designed by Danny Williams. Because of the punishing lights, the band took to wearing sunglasses onstage. Early promo posters referred to the group as the "erupting plastic inevitable". This soon changed to "the exploding plastic inevitable".
In 1966, MacLise temporarily rejoined the Velvet Underground for a few EPI shows when Reed was suffering from hepatitis and unable to perform. For these appearances, Cale sang and played organ, Tucker switched to bass guitar and MacLise was on drums. Also at these appearances, the band often played an extended jam they had dubbed "Booker T", after musician Booker T. Jones. Some of these performances have been released as a bootleg; they remain the only record of MacLise with the Velvet Underground.
According to Morrison, MacLise is said to have regretted leaving the Velvet Underground and wanted to rejoin, but Reed specifically prohibited this and made it clear that this stint was only temporary. It should be noted, however, that MacLise still behaved eccentrically with time and commerce and went by his own clock: for instance, he showed up half an hour late to one show and carried on with a half-hour of drumming to compensate for his late arrival, long after the set had finished.
In December 1966, Warhol and David Dalton designed Issue 3 of the multimedia Aspen. 31 in 2018 dollars ) per copy and was packaged in a hinged box designed to look like Fab laundry detergent, were various leaflets and booklets, one of which was a commentary on rock and roll by Lou Reed, another an EPI promotional newspaper. Also enclosed was a 2-sided flexi disk: side one produced by Peter Walker, a musical associate of Timothy Leary; and side two titled "Loop", credited to the Velvet Underground but actually recorded by Cale alone. "Loop", a recording solely of pulsating audio feedback culminating in a locked groove, was "a precursor to [Reed's] Metal Machine Music ", say Velvets archivists M.C. Kostek and Phil Milstein in the book The Velvet Underground Companion. "Loop" also predates much industrial music.Included in this issue of the "magazine", which retailed at $4 ($
At Warhol's insistence, Nico sang with the band on three songs of their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album was recorded primarily in Scepter Studios in New York City during April 1966, but for reasons unclear, some songs were rerecorded at TTG Studios in Los Angeles, along with the new song "Sunday Morning", later in the year with Tom Wilson producing. The album was released by Verve Records the following year in March 1967. The album cover is famous for its Warhol design: a yellow banana sticker with "Peel slowly and see" printed near the tip. Those who did remove the banana skin found a pink, peeled banana beneath.
Eleven songs showcased the Velvets' dynamic range, veering from the pounding attacks of "I'm Waiting for the Man" and "Run Run Run", the droning "Venus in Furs" and "Heroin", the chiming and celestial "Sunday Morning", to the quiet "Femme Fatale" and the tender "I'll Be Your Mirror", as well as Warhol's own favorite song of the group, "All Tomorrow's Parties".Kurt Loder would later describe "All Tomorrow's Parties" as a "mesmerizing gothic-rock masterpiece". Closing out the album was the avant-garde "The Black Angel's Death Song", followed by the lengthy, feedback-laden "European Son", which Reed dedicated to his Syracuse professor Delmore Schwartz.
The overall sound was propelled by Reed and Nico's deadpan vocals, Cale's droning viola, bass and keyboards, Reed's experimental avant-garde guitar, Morrison's often R&B- or country-influenced guitar, and Tucker's simple but steady and tribal-sounding beat with sparse use of cymbals. A technique used on many songs was the "drone strum", an eighth-note rhythm guitar style used by Reed.Although Cale was the band's usual bassist, if he switched to viola or keyboards, Morrison would normally play bass. Despite his proficiency on the instrument, Morrison hated playing bass. Conversely, some songs had Reed and Morrison playing their usual guitars with Cale on viola or keyboards, but with nobody playing bass.
The album was released on March 12, 1967 (after a lengthy delay by Verve) and reached No. 171 on Billboard magazine's Top 200 charts. The commercial growth of the album was hampered by a legal claim: as the album's back cover included a photo of the group on stage with an unauthorised image projected behind them of actor Eric Emerson from a Warhol motion picture, Chelsea Girls , Emerson made a claim of $500,000 ($3,756,986 in 2018 dollars ) for use of his image. Instead of compensating Emerson for damages, MGM Records canceled all distribution of the album for nearly two months until the legal problems were settled (by which time the record had lost its modest commercial momentum), and the still was airbrushed out of the remaining copies of the album. By the time the record was re-distributed into stores, it faced stiff competition in the marketplace. The album was re-distributed at nearly the same time as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967, which further hindered the release. Regarding MGM/Verve's delay in releasing the album, Warhol's business manager Paul Morrissey once offered the following: "Verve/MGM didn't know what to do with The Velvet Underground and Nico because it was so peculiar. They did not release it for almost a year. Tom Wilson at Verve/MGM only bought the album from me because of Nico. He saw no talent in Lou [Reed]." In 1982, Brian Eno said that while the album sold only 30,000 copies in its early years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
Nico moved on after the Velvets severed their relationship with Andy Warhol. Reed once commented on their leaving Warhol: "He sat down and had a talk with me. 'You gotta decide what you want to do. Do you want to keep just playing museums from now on and the art festivals? Or do you want to start moving into other areas? Lou, don't you think you should think about it?' So I thought about it, and I fired him. Because I thought that was one of the things to do if we were going to move away from that…"Steve Sesnick was soon brought in as a replacement manager, much to the chagrin of Cale, who believes that Sesnick tried to push Reed as band leader at the expense of band harmony. Both Cale and Reed called Sesnick a "snake" in different interviews after leaving the band. In September 1967, the Velvet Underground began recording their second album, White Light/White Heat , with Tom Wilson as producer.
The band performed live often, and their performances became louder and harsher and often included extended improvisations.
Warhol arranged for the band to get an endorsement deal with Vox to enable them to use Vox equipment, including special effects pedals and an organ, for free.Sterling Morrison felt they were the first American band to get a Vox endorsement.
Sterling Morrison offered the following input regarding the recording:
There was fantastic leakage 'cause everyone was playing so loud and we had so much electronic junk with us in the studio—all these fuzzers and compressors. Gary Kellgren, who is ultra-competent, told us repeatedly: "You can't do it—all the needles are on red." and we reacted as we always reacted: "Look, we don't know what goes on in there and we don't want to hear about it. Just do the best you can." And so the album is fuzzy, there's all that white noise...we wanted to do something electronic and energetic. We had the energy and the electronics, but we didn't know it couldn't be recorded...what we were trying to do was really fry the tracks.
Cale has said that while the debut had some moments of fragility and beauty, White Light/White Heat was "consciously anti-beauty".The title track sets a harsh opening; bassist Cale overdubbing a piano that has been described as "a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Henry Cowell". Along with brash songs like "Sister Ray" and "I Heard Her Call My Name", there was the darkly comic "The Gift", a short story written by Reed and narrated by Cale in his deadpan Welsh accent. The meditative "Here She Comes Now" was later covered by Galaxie 500, Cabaret Voltaire, and Nirvana, among others. The album was released on January 30, 1968, entering the Billboard Top 200 chart for two weeks, at number 199.
Tensions were growing: the group was tired of receiving little recognition for its work, and Reed and Cale were pulling the Velvet Underground in different directions. The differences showed in the last recording sessions the band had with John Cale in 1968: three pop-like songs in Reed's direction ("Temptation Inside Your Heart", "Stephanie Says" and "Beginning to See the Light") and a viola-driven drone in Cale's direction ("Hey Mr. Rain"). Further, some songs the band had performed with Cale in concert, or that he had co-written, were not recorded until after he had left the group (such as "Walk It and Talk It", "Ride into the Sun", and "Countess from Hong Kong").
Reed called Morrison and Tucker to a meeting at the Riviera Cafe in the West Village without Cale's knowledge, and informed them that Cale was out of the band; when Morrison objected, Reed said it was either Cale was sacked or the Velvets were dissolved.Neither Morrison nor Tucker was happy with the idea, but faced with a choice of either no Cale or no band at all, the pair reluctantly sided with Reed.
It has often been reported that before Cale's departure (following White Light/White Heat) there was a struggle between his creative impulses and Reed's: Cale's experimentalist tendencies had contrasted with Reed's more conventional approach. According to Tim Mitchell, however, Morrison reported that while there was creative tension between Reed and Cale, its impact has been exaggerated over the years.Cale played his last show with the band at the Boston Tea Party in September 1968 and was fired shortly afterwards.
According to Michael Carlucci, a friend of Robert Quine, "Lou told Quine that the reason why he had to get rid of Cale in the band was Cale's ideas were just too out there. Cale had some wacky ideas. He wanted to record the next album with the amplifiers underwater, and [Lou] just couldn't have it. He was trying to make the band more accessible."[ citation needed ][ who? ] Ultimately, Morrison was dispatched by Reed to tell Cale that he was out of the band.
Before work on their third album started, Cale was replaced by musician Doug Yule of the Boston group the Grass Menagerie, who had been a close associate of the band.Yule, a native New Yorker, had moved to Boston to attend Boston University as a theater major, but left the program after one year to continue playing music. Yule had first seen the Velvets perform at a student event at Harvard University in Cambridge in early 1968, and when the band played at the Boston Tea Party later that year, the band stayed at Yule's apartment on River Street, which he happened to be renting from their road manager, Hans Onsager (who worked closely with their manager Steve Sesnick). It was during this period that Morrison heard Yule playing guitar in his apartment, and mentioned to Reed that Yule was practicing guitar and was improving quickly. It was following this discussion that led to a phone call from Steve Sesnick inviting Yule to meet with the band at Max's Kansas City in New York City in October 1968 to discuss joining the Velvets before two upcoming shows in Cleveland, Ohio, at the club La Cave. Upon meeting Reed, Sesnick and Morrison at Max's, Yule was asked to handle bass and organ duties in the band, and he would soon contribute vocals as well. After several months of shows in the US, the band swiftly recorded their third album The Velvet Underground in late 1968 at TTG Studios in Hollywood, California. It was released in March 1969. The cover photograph was taken by Billy Name. The LP sleeve was designed by Dick Smith, then a staff artist at MGM/Verve. Released on March 12, 1969, the album failed to make Billboard's Top 200 album chart.
The harsh, abrasive tendencies on the first two records were almost entirely absent on their third album. This resulted in a gentler sound influenced by folk music, prescient of the songwriting style that would soon form Reed's solo career. While Reed had covered a vast range of lyrical subjects on the first two Velvet Underground albums, the lyrical themes of the third album were more "intimate" in nature. Reed's songwriting also covered new emotional ground as well, as heard in the songs "Pale Blue Eyes", "Jesus", "Beginning to See the Light", and "I'm Set Free". The personal tone of the album's subject matter resulted in Reed's desire to create a "closet" mix that boosted the vocals to the forefront, while reducing the album's instrumentation. The second (and more widely distributed) mix is the stereo mix done by MGM/Verve staff recording engineer Val Valentin. Another factor in the change of sound was the band's Vox amplifiers and assorted fuzzboxes were rumored to have been stolen from an airport while they were on tour and they obtained replacements by signing a new endorsement deal with Sunn. In addition, Reed and Morrison had purchased matching Fender 12-string electric guitars, but Doug Yule plays down the influence of the new equipment.
Morrison's ringing guitar parts and Yule's melodic bass guitar and harmony vocals are used prominently on the album.[ according to whom? ] Reed's songs and singing are subdued and confessional in nature,[ according to whom? ] and he shared lead vocals with Yule, particularly when his own voice would fail under stress. Doug Yule sang the lead vocal on "Candy Says" (about the Warhol superstar Candy Darling), which opens the LP, and a rare Moe Tucker lead vocal is used on "After Hours", which closes the album, because Reed felt her "innocent" voice was more believable for a sad song. The album has the experimental track "The Murder Mystery", which utilised all four band members (Reed, Yule, Tucker and Morrison) reading different lyrics, sometimes simultaneously, as well as the ballad "Pale Blue Eyes".
The Velvet Underground spent much of 1969 on the road both in the US and Canada, and not making much headway commercially. Despite these commercial setbacks, the band focused on performing live shows on the road, playing both re-worked songs from their past albums, and debuting new songs that would find their way onto the Loaded album, such as "New Age", "Rock and Roll", and "Sweet Jane". While the band continued to do extended improvisations in their live shows, by 1969 they were focusing on tight live performances,[ citation needed ] and several of the live shows the band played during this period would end up released as live albums many years later. The live album 1969: The Velvet Underground Live (with Reed, Yule, Morrison & Tucker) was recorded in October 1969 but not released until 1974, on Mercury Records, at the urging of rock critic Paul Nelson, who worked in A&R for Mercury at the time. Nelson asked singer-songwriter Elliott Murphy to write liner notes for the double album. In his notes, Murphy described a scene 100 years in the future, with a student taking a class on "classical rock'n'roll" and listening to the Velvet Underground. He wondered what the student would make of the music and concluded, "I wish it was a hundred years from today (I can't stand the suspense)".
During this period the band played a series of shows in November 1969 at the Matrix and the Family Dog venues in San Francisco; recordings of these shows were released in 2001, as a triple live album, Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes , which included the line up of Reed, Yule, Morrison and Tucker. During 1969 the band recorded on and off in the studio, creating a lot of promising material (both singles and one-offs) that were never officially released at the time due to disputes with their record label. What many consider to be the prime songs of these recording sessions were released years later, in 1985, in a compilation album called VU . The album VU marks the transitional sound between the whisper-soft third album and the band's movement to the later pop rock song-style of their final record, Loaded .[ according to whom? ] Two of the songs the Velvets recorded during this period were later used on film soundtracks: "Stephanie Says" was used in the 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums ; "I'm Sticking With You" has a rare Moe Tucker–Lou Reed dual-lead vocal track, with Doug Yule accompanying on piano, and was included in the film Juno .
The rest of the recordings, as well as some alternative takes and instrumental tracks were later bundled on Another View which was released in 1986. After Reed's departure, he later reworked a number of these songs for his solo records over the years: "Stephanie Says", "Ocean", "I Can't Stand It", "Lisa Says", and "Andy's Chest", as well as "She's My Best Friend", which had been originally sung by Doug Yule.
By 1969 the MGM and Verve record labels had been losing money for several years. A new president, Mike Curb, was hired and he decided to cancel the recording contracts of 18 of their acts who supposedly glorified drugs in their lyrics, including their many controversial and unprofitable acts. The drug or hippie-related bands were released from MGM, and the Velvets were on his list, along with Eric Burdon and the Animals and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Nonetheless MGM insisted on retaining ownership of all master tapes of their recordings and according to an MGM representative in a Rolling Stone article from 1970, "it wasn't eighteen groups, [Curb] was misquoted. The cuts were made partly to do with the drug scene—like maybe a third of them had to do with drug reasons. The others were dropped because they weren't selling." Lou Reed would later remark in the 1987 issue of Creem that while he did not believe that MGM dropped the Velvets for drug associations, he did acknowledge, "We wanted to get out of there."
Cotillion Records (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records that specialized in blues and Southern soul) signed the Velvet Underground for what would be its final studio album with Lou Reed: Loaded. The album's title refers to Atlantic's request that the band produce an album "loaded with hits". Though the record was not the smash hit the company had anticipated, it contains the most accessible pop the Velvet Underground had performed,[ according to whom? ] and two of Reed's best-known songs,[ according to whom? ] "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll".
By the recording of Loaded, Doug Yule played a more prominent role in the band, and with Reed's encouragement, sang the lead vocal on four songs: "Who Loves the Sun", which opened the album, "New Age", "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" and the final track, "Oh! Sweet Nuthin". Yule once commented on the recording of Loaded: "Lou leaned on me a lot in terms of musical support and for harmonies, vocal arrangements. I did a lot on Loaded. It sort of devolved down to the Lou and Doug recreational recording."
While the third Velvets' LP was recorded mostly live in a collaborative atmosphere, the bulk of Loaded was crafted in the studio. In addition to handling all the bass and piano duties on Loaded, Yule also contributed several lead guitar parts and played drums on five of the album's ten tracks (most notably on the songs "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane")since Moe Tucker (who was credited as the album's drummer) was absent on maternity leave to have her first child, a daughter named Kerry. Other drum parts were performed by engineer Adrian Barber, session musician Tommy Castanaro, and Billy Yule (Doug Yule's younger brother), who was still in high school at the time. During the sessions, Sterling Morrison resumed his undergraduate studies at the City College of New York. Although he contributed guitar tracks to the album, he began to split his time between classes, the sessions and the gigs at Max's, thus leaving Reed and Yule to handle the bulk of the arrangements.
It was during the Loaded recording sessions that the Velvets (with Billy Yule deputizing on drums) secured a now-legendary nine-week residency (from June 24 – August 28, 1970) at the New York nightclub Max's Kansas City, playing two lengthy sets per night, and showcasing altered arrangements of older songs from their previous albums, as well as showcasing the new material that would soon make up Loaded. Reed's last live performance with the band at Max's was informally recorded and was released two years later in 1972 as Live at Max's Kansas City , also on Atlantic Records.
Disillusioned with the lack of progress the band was making, and facing pressure by manager Steve Sesnick, Reed decided to quit the band during the last week of the Max's Kansas City shows in August 1970. Although Reed had informed Tucker, who was attending the show but not playing with the band because of her pregnancy, that he planned to leave the group on his last evening, he did not tell Morrison or Yule. In a 2006 interview, Yule said Sesnick waited until one hour before the band was scheduled to take the stage the following night before notifying him that Reed was not coming. "I was expecting [Lou] to show up, I thought he was late." Yule blamed Sesnick for Reed's departure. "Sesnick had engineered Lou's leaving the group. He and Lou had a relationship where Lou had depended on him for moral support, and he trusted him, and Sesnick basically said 'screw you.' ... It must have been hard for Lou to hear that because he depended on him, so he quit."While Loaded was finalized and mixed, it had yet to be mastered and was not set to be released by Atlantic until November of that year. Reed often said he was completely surprised when he saw Loaded in stores. He also said, "I left them to their album full of hits that I made".
Reed was perturbed about a verse being edited from the Loaded version of "Sweet Jane". [ citation needed ] A brief interlude in "Rock and Roll" was also removed. (For the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See, the album was presented as Reed intended;[ citation needed ] the "Fully Loaded" two-disc edition includes the full versions of "Sweet Jane" and "New Age".) On the other hand, Yule has pointed out that the album was for all intents and purposes finished when Reed left the band and that Reed had been aware of most, if not all, of the edits."New Age" was changed as well: as originally recorded, its closing line ("It's the beginning of a new age" as sung by Yule) was repeated many more times.
With manager Steve Sesnick looking to fill bookings (following the departure of Lou Reed), and with the pending release of Loaded in November 1970, the band, now with Sterling Morrison on guitar, Moe Tucker on drums, Walter Powers on bass, and Doug Yule taking over lead vocals and guitar, played periodic shows to promote the album from November 1970 to August 1971, playing shows around the U.S.By this juncture, Sterling Morrison had received his degree from the City College of New York. Following a show in Houston, Texas, he left the group in August 1971 to pursue a Ph.D. in medieval literature at the University of Texas at Austin. He had packed an empty suitcase and when the time came for the band to return to New York City, he told them at the airport that he was staying in Texas and quitting the band—the last founding member to quit. Morrison's replacement was singer/keyboard player Willie Alexander. This brief line-up of the band played several shows in the US and Canada in September 1971, and in October & November 1971 the band did several shows in England, Wales, and the Netherlands to support the 1971 European release of Loaded, some of which are collected on the 2001 box set Final V.U. Following a single show in Pennsylvania in early January 1972, the lineup of Yule, Tucker, Alexander and Powers disbanded.
In May 1972, Atlantic released Live at Max's Kansas City , the recording of the Velvet Underground's final performance with Reed (also with Doug Yule, Morrison, and Billy Yule) made by a fan, Brigid Polk, on August 23, 1970. Due to publicity around the release, and growing interest in the Velvet Underground in Europe, Sesnick was able to secure a single album deal with Polydor in the UK, and a handful of promotional shows were booked in the UK in November and December 1972. After Sesnick reached out to Yule, a new Velvet Underground lineup was quickly assembled by Yule to do the UK shows. This brief lineup of the Velvet Underground consisted of Yule, guitarist Rob Norris (later of The Bongos), bassist George Kay (Krzyzewski), and drummer Mark Nauseef. After Sesnick failed to show up in London to meet the band with the necessary equipment and tour funds,they played the handful of dates to secure enough money for flights back to the US, and Yule left the band when the brief tour ended in December 1972. It was during this brief period in the UK that Yule recorded the Polydor album (ultimately titled Squeeze ) under the Velvet Underground name virtually by himself, with only the assistance of Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice and a few other session musicians in an unspecified London studio. While Yule intended to recruit Tucker to play drums on Squeeze, Sesnick vetoed his decision and claimed she was "too expensive" to hire.
Squeeze was released in February the following year, 1973, in Europe only, with minimal promotion by the label, and was held in low regard by fans and critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine notes that the album received "uniformly terrible reviews" upon initial release,and in the early 1970s, the NME Book of Rock counted it as "a Velvet Underground album in name only". When asked about Squeeze, Yule hinted that band manager Steve Sesnick orchestrated the album purely as a money ploy. "Sesnick dumped the second iteration of the band in England with no money and no equipment and just left us there to find our way back. He gave me six copies of Squeeze as pay. I never got any money. When you sign with ASCAP or BMI you get an advance. He not only made an arrangement with them but actually signed as me and took the money."
Despite the negative reviews of the album upon its initial release, in recent years the album has been revisited by both critics and musicians with more sympathetic and favorable reviews. In 2011 music writer Steven Shehori included Squeeze in his "Criminally Overlooked Albums" series for The Huffington Post , and in a lengthy review of the album, offered the following positive assessment of Squeeze: "if you pluck it from the shackles of its murky back-story, Squeeze is nothing short of a quintessential listening experience."The UK band Squeeze took their name from its title according to band member Chris Difford, who offered the following opinion of the album in a 2012 interview: "It's an odd record, but the name came from that, definitely. ... In a retrospective way I really enjoy it. It has kind of a naivety about it."
Although Yule had put an end to the Velvet Underground in late 1972, a band with him, Billy Yule, George Kay and guitarist Don Silverman (later known as Noor Khan) was incorrectly billed as the Velvet Underground for two shows in Boston and Long Island. The band members objected to the billing (instigated by their tour manager); according to Yule, the promoter was not supposed to bill the band as the Velvet Underground.In late May 1973, the band and the tour manager parted ways, thus bringing the Velvet Underground to an end until the classic line-up of Reed, Tucker, Morrison and Cale would reunite in the 1990s.
Reed, Cale and Nico teamed up at the beginning of 1972 to play a concert in Paris at the Bataclan club. This concert was bootlegged, and finally received an official release as Le Bataclan '72 in 2003. Before that, Cale and Nico had developed solo careers. Nico had also begun a solo career with Cale producing a majority of her albums. Reed started his solo career in 1972 after a brief sabbatical. Sterling Morrison was a professor for some time, teaching Medieval Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, then became a tugboat captain in Houston for several years. Moe Tucker raised a family before returning to small-scale gigging and recording in the 1980s; Morrison was in several touring bands, including Tucker's band.
Yule subsequently toured with Lou Reed and played on the latter's Sally Can't Dance album, and Yule (at Reed's request) also contributed guitar and bass tracks to Reed's album Coney Island Baby , which can be heard in the Bonus Edition of the album (released in 2002). Yule became a member of American Flyer, then dropped out of the music industry altogether before reappearing in the early 2000s.
In 1985 Polydor released the album VU, which collected unreleased recordings that might have constituted the band's fourth album for MGM in 1969 but had never been released. Some of the songs had been recorded when Cale was still in the band. More unreleased recordings of the band, some of them demos and unfinished tracks, were released in 1986 as Another View.
On July 18, 1988, Nico died of a cerebral haemorrhage following a bicycle accident.
Czech dissident playwright Václav Havel was a fan of the Velvet Underground, ultimately becoming a friend of Lou Reed. Though some attribute the name of the 1989 "Velvet Revolution", which ended more than 40 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, to the band, Reed pointed out that the name Velvet Revolution derives from its peaceful nature—that no one was "actually hurt" during those events.Reed has also given at least one radio interview where he stated that it was called the Velvet Revolution because all of the dissidents were listening to the Velvet Underground leading up to the overthrow, and this music was an inspiration for the events that followed. After Havel's election as president, first of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic, Reed visited him in Prague. On September 16, 1998, at Havel's request, Reed performed in the White House at a state dinner in Havel's honor hosted by President Bill Clinton.
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In 1990, Reed and Cale released Songs for Drella , a song cycle about Andy Warhol, who had died in 1987. Though Morrison and Tucker had each worked with Reed and Cale since the Velvet Underground had broken up, Songs for Drella was the first time the pair had worked together in decades, and speculation about a reunion began to form, fueled by the one-off appearance by Reed, Cale, Morrison and Tucker to play "Heroin" as the encore to a brief Songs for Drella set in Jouy-en-Josas, France. Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison also joined John Cale for an encore at his show at New York University on December 5, 1992.
The Reed–Cale–Morrison–Tucker lineup officially reunited without Yule (whose inclusion had been championed by Morrison) in 1992, commencing activities with a European tour beginning in Edinburgh on June 1, 1993, and including a performance at Glastonbury which appeared on an NME front cover. Cale sang most of the songs Nico had originally performed. As well as headlining (with Luna as the opening act), the Velvets performed as supporting act for five dates of U2's Zoo TV Tour. With the success of the Velvet Underground's European reunion tour, a series of US tour dates were proposed, as was an MTV Unplugged broadcast, and possibly even some new studio recordings. Before any of this could come to fruition, Cale and Reed fell out again, breaking up the band once more.
On August 30, 1995, Sterling Morrison died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma after returning to his hometown of Poughkeepsie, New York, at age 53. When the classic lineup of the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, Reed, Tucker, and Cale reformed the Velvet Underground for the last time. Doug Yule was not inducted and did not attend. At the ceremony, the band was inducted by Patti Smith, and the trio performed "Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend", written in tribute to Morrison.
In December 2009, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the band's formation, Reed, Tucker and Yule (with Cale not present) gave a rare interview at the New York Public Library.
The Velvet Underground continues to exist as a New York–based partnership managing the financial and back catalog aspects for the band members. In January 2012, the surviving members of the band initiated legal action against the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts over unauthorised use of the debut album's banana design.Forty-fifth anniversary box sets of the band's first four studio albums, including significantly expanded bonus material, appeared from 2012 to 2015; the live box set The Complete Matrix Tapes , comprising remixed and remastered versions of a series of professionally recorded 1969 performances, also appeared in 2015.
On October 27, 2013, Lou Reed died at his home in Southampton, New York, aged 71. He had undergone a liver transplant earlier in the year.John Cale responded to Reed's passing by saying, "The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet…I've lost my 'school-yard buddy'".
In 2017, John Cale and Maureen Tucker reunited to perform “I'm Waiting for the Man” at the Grammy Salute to Music Legends concert.
The Velvet Underground is regarded as one of the most influential bands in rock history. Their first four albums were included in Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.They were ranked the 19th greatest artist by the same magazine and the 24th greatest artist in a poll by VH1. In 1996 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Critic Robert Christgau considers them "the number three band of the '60s, after the Beatles and James Brown and His Famous Flames". AllMusic wrote that "Few rock groups can claim to have broken so much new territory, and maintain such consistent brilliance on record, as the Velvet Underground during their brief lifespan [...] the Velvets' innovations -- which blended the energy of rock with the sonic adventurism of the avant-garde, and introduced a new degree of social realism and sexual kinkiness into rock lyrics -- were too abrasive for the mainstream to handle."
|Vocals, guitar||Bass, keyboards, viola, vocals||Guitar, bass, backing vocals||Percussion|
|April–November 1965||Lou Reed||John Cale||Sterling Morrison||Angus MacLise||Disc 1 of Peel Slowly and See (1995; minus MacLise)|
|December 1965 – September 1968||Lou Reed||John Cale||Sterling Morrison||Maureen Tucker||The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), White Light/White Heat (1968), two tracks on VU (1985), three tracks on Another View (1986), discs 2–3 of Peel Slowly and See (1995)|
|Vocals, guitar||Bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals||Guitar, bass, backing vocals||Percussion|
|September 1968 – August 1970||Lou Reed||Doug Yule||Sterling Morrison||Maureen Tucker||The Velvet Underground (1969), Loaded (1970; minus Tucker), Live at Max's Kansas City (1972; minus Tucker), 1969: The Velvet Underground Live (1974), eight tracks on VU (1985), six tracks on Another View (1986), discs 4–5 of Peel Slowly and See (1995), Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (2001)|
|Vocals, guitar, keyboards||Bass||Guitar||Drums|
|November 1970 – August 1971||Doug Yule||Walter Powers||Sterling Morrison||Maureen Tucker||Studio demo of two songs, "She'll Make You Cry" and "Friends" (as yet unreleased)|
|Vocals, guitar||Bass||Keyboards, vocals||Drums|
|October 1971 – December 1971||Doug Yule||Walter Powers||Willie Alexander||Maureen Tucker||Discs 1–2 and part of disc 4 of Final V.U. 1971–1973 (2001)|
|Vocals, various instruments|
|January 1972 – February 1973||Doug Yule||---||---||---||Squeeze (1973), discs 3–4 of Final V.U. (2001), both with hired hands|
|Vocals, guitar||Bass, keyboards, viola, vocals||Guitar, bass, backing vocals||Percussion|
|June 1990; November 1992 – July 1993||Lou Reed||John Cale||Sterling Morrison||Maureen Tucker||Live MCMXCIII (1993)|
|Vocals, guitar||Bass, keyboards, vocals||-||Percussion|
|1996||Lou Reed||John Cale||Maureen Tucker||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony|
|2009||Lou Reed||Doug Yule||Maureen Tucker||Group interview at the New York Public Library|
John Davies Cale, OBE is a Welsh musician, composer, singer, songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of the American rock band the Velvet Underground. Over his five-decade career, Cale has worked in various styles across rock, drone, classical, avant-garde and electronic music.
The Velvet Underground is the self-titled third studio album by American rock band the Velvet Underground. Released in March 1969, it was their first record with Doug Yule, who was a replacement for John Cale. Recorded in 1968 at TTG Studios in Hollywood, California, the album's sound—consisting largely of ballads and straightforward rock songs—marked a notable shift in style from the band's previous recordings. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album number 314 in their list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
Peel Slowly and See is a five-disc box set of material by the Velvet Underground. It was released in September 1995 by Polydor.
Maureen Ann "Moe" Tucker is an American musician and singer best known for having been the drummer for the New York City-based rock band the Velvet Underground.
Chelsea Girl is the debut solo album and second studio album by Nico. It was released in October 1967 by Verve Records, also home to the Velvet Underground. The name of the album is a reference to Andy Warhol's 1966 film Chelsea Girls, in which Nico starred. The sixth track of the album is titled "Chelsea Girls".
Douglas Alan Yule is an American musician and singer, most notable for being a member of the Velvet Underground from 1968 to 1973.
The Very Best of The Velvet Underground is a compilation album by The Velvet Underground. It was released in Europe on March 31, 2003, by Polydor, the record label that oversees the band's Universal Music Group back catalog.
Squeeze is the fifth and final studio album released by The Velvet Underground. It features no members of the Lou Reed-era group other than multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule, who wrote and recorded the album almost entirely by himself. Yule had joined the Velvet Underground prior to recording their self-titled third album, replacing founding member John Cale, and had contributed significantly to the fourth album, Loaded. Following the departures of the remaining founding members, Yule took control of the band. Longtime drummer Maureen Tucker was slated to appear on Squeeze by Yule, but she was dismissed by the band's manager, Steve Sesnick.
Live MCMXCIII is a live album by the Velvet Underground. It was released simultaneously in single and double CD/cassette formats on October 26, 1993 by Sire Records, then DVD format on January 24, 2006. The single CD is an abridged version of the double CD edition, featuring tracks 2, 13-16, 5, 6, 9, 18, and 20-23 in that order. There are no different takes of songs across the multiple editions although the actual track times differ by a few seconds between releases.
1969: The Velvet Underground Live is a live album by the Velvet Underground. It was originally released as a double album in September 1974 by Mercury Records. The September 1988 CD re-release was issued as two separate single CD volumes, with one extra track per disc. Since many of the band's studio albums were out of print in the USA from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, 1969 was one of the more popular albums by the band, and is a fan favorite. Spin magazine's Alternative Record Guide included it in the top 100 alternative albums of all time in 1995.
Gold is a two-CD compilation album by the Velvet Underground. It was released for the North American market on June 14, 2005, by Polydor, the record label that oversees the band's Universal Music Group back catalogue.
Final V.U. 1971–1973 is a box set by the Velvet Underground, comprising live recordings from after founding members Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison had left the group. It was released by Japanese record company Captain Trip Records in August 2001.
The Best of The Velvet Underground: Words and Music of Lou Reed is a compilation album by The Velvet Underground. It was released in October 1989 by Verve Records.
Live at Max's Kansas City is a live album by the Velvet Underground. It was originally released on May 30, 1972, by Cotillion, a subsidiary label of Atlantic Records.
Stephen Sesnick was a club owner who served as manager of the Velvet Underground after the band ended their association with Andy Warhol in 1967.
"The Black Angel's Death Song" is a song by the Velvet Underground, from their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. It was written by Lou Reed and John Cale. In a footnote to the lyrics, Lou Reed wrote: "The idea here was to string words together for the sheer fun of their sound, not any particular meaning."
William "Billy" Yule is an American musician, best known for his brief stint as a temporary drummer for the Velvet Underground during their famous summer engagement 1970 at Max's Kansas City, sitting in for Maureen Tucker while she was on maternity leave.
The discography of the American rock band The Velvet Underground consists of five studio albums, five live albums, thirteen compilation albums, two box sets and seven singles.
Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground featuring Nico is a compilation album of the Velvet Underground released by MGM Records in 1971. Originally released as a double LP, the cover artwork and inside gatefold sleeve feature imitations of Andy Warhol's paintings of Coca-Cola bottles, but are credited to other artists on the back sleeve of the album. The album was released in the UK to capitalise on the interest from Warhol's Pork.
Cale, horrified by the mere suggestion that a 'chick' should play in their great group, had to be placated by the promise that it was strictly temporary.
It was at this time that The Velvets started wearing dark glasses on stage, not through trying to be cool but because the light-show could be blinding at times.
When I had to play viola, Sterling had to play bass, which he hated.According to the website, the quote is from John Cale's autobiography, What's Welsh for Zen (NY: St. Martin's Press (2000).