The Velvet Underground

Arguably one of the most influential bands of all time and a must for the indie bands blog. The Velvet Underground, started as collaboration between Lou Reed, a native of New York and John Cale, from West Glamorgan.

Reed was under contract as a songwriter for Pickwick Records, and Cale was a classically trained musician, it was this diversity of backgrounds, which probably brought about the conflict that was associated with the band. Sterling Morrisson, on guitar, and Moe Tucker on drums, completed the first line-up of the band which took its name from a pulp fiction book popular at that time.

In 1965 The Velvet Underground met with Andy Warhol, collaborated with his ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ movement, added Nico on vocals and produced their first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico – Andy Warhol, also known as the Banana Album.

Unlike many bands of the time, The Velvet Underground wrote about the darker side of the hedonistic side of the time and as a result finding a record company to press the album was no easy task and it wasn’t until March 1967 that Verve records released the album.

With Nico in 1966, from left to right by row: ...
Image via Wikipedia

Nico continued her solo career having no more to do with the group and the band disassociated themselves with Andy Warhol in 1967.

The second album, ‘White Light White Heat’ was riven with internal conflicts in the band. ‘Sister Ray’ a 17 minute piece, recorded live in the studio featured some of Cale’s most inspired instrumental work.

The relationship between Cale and Reed reached breaking point and Cale was fired, to be replaced by Doug Yule on bass.

By 1970, Reed abandoned the group and Yule took over, with the band releasing ‘Squeeze’ which was poorly received and is not perceived, by many as a Velvet Underground release.

The recorded music by the band was frequently not officially released and this led to a considerable amount of material being issued after the band had finally dissolved. While their recorded output was limited, The Velvet Underground were always an active live band and although not commercially successful, their influence was spread wide and far.

Despite the short life span of the band, which was riven with internal conflict, the Velvet Underground remain highly influential, either directly or through those originally inspired by the band.

Essential listening:

The Velvet Underground & Nico

Peel Slowly and See

The Velvet Underground are not for everyone, but their influence on generations of bands is undeniable.

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