The bleakest, filthiest junkhouse in the mansion of rock 'n' roll serves as a crash pad to the memory of this band, which romanticized every deadly vice and self-destructive habit known to man. Founded in the early 1960s by Lou Reed,... [more]
The bleakest, filthiest junkhouse in the mansion of rock 'n' roll serves as a crash pad to the memory of this band, which romanticized every deadly vice and self-destructive habit known to man. Founded in the early 1960s by Lou Reed, an educated Jewish junkie, and the classical violist John Cale, the Velvet Underground floated around for several years as a Greenwich Village subterranean non-phenomenon. Bassist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker were eventually roped in.
In 1965, the quartet was blessed with a visitation from the angel of pop culture himself, Andy Warhol. Warhol enlisted the Underground to play at showings of his film series and in a show called the "Exploding Plastic Inevitable." He also persuaded them to take on one of his starlets, Nico, as a singer (since Lou Reed's nasal, half-sung lyrics could be a bit inaccessible). Nico's sibilant, androgynous voice added a heavy-lidded, ritualistic feel to several songs in the band's repertoire, but personality conflicts quickly developed and the band kicked her out. Warhol provided the famous peel-off banana cover art for the Underground's first album "The Velvet Underground and Nico" (1967), but then abandoned them for their excessive punctuality: it seems they started playing one night before the fashionably late Warhol entourage had arrived. Without their patron saint, the Velvet Underground retreated to the dystopic comfort of the underground music scene. They made four more records in the next four years, laying a spare and gritty foundation for decades of punk rock architects to come.
The band's breakup in 1971 spawned solo efforts by Reed, Cale, and Tucker. In 1990, the band reunited for a Warhol-tribute concert outside Paris. They played a single song, "Heroin," and thrilled the masses, who seemed to have been jonesing for a junk-nostalgia fix. The Underground began rehearsing for a tour, but things fell apart when Cale and Reed conflicted over who would produce their MTV Unplugged appearance. Fans never fear: there are plenty of Velvet Underground boxed sets to go around. [show less]