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The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground is a legendary American rock band that emerged in the mid-1960s.
Their unconventional sound, provocative lyrics, and avant-garde sensibilities have had a lasting impact on the music industry and continue to influence countless artists. Here is a detailed history of the band:
- The Velvet Underground was formed in 1964 in New York City. The core members of the band were Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker.
- Lou Reed, the primary songwriter and vocalist, had previously worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records and had a background in poetry and literature.
- John Cale, a classically trained musician from Wales, played various instruments, including the viola, bass guitar, and keyboards.
- Sterling Morrison played guitar, and Maureen Tucker was the band's drummer.
Early Influences (1964-1966):
- The band drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, including rock 'n' roll, avant-garde art, literature, and experimental music. They were influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol, whose connection with the band would prove pivotal.
Andy Warhol and The Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1965):
- In 1965, the Velvet Underground became associated with pop art icon Andy Warhol. He agreed to manage the band and introduced them to the art world.
- The Velvet Underground began performing in a multimedia environment called "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable," which combined their music with films, lights, and other artistic elements.
Debut Album and Controversy (1967):
- In 1967, the Velvet Underground released their self-titled debut album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico." It featured the iconic banana cover designed by Andy Warhol.
- The album was notable for its dark, edgy lyrics and experimental sound. Songs like "Heroin," "I'm Waiting for the Man," and "Venus in Furs" explored taboo subjects and challenged conventional rock music.
- Despite its low commercial success at the time, the album has since been recognized as a classic and highly influential.
Changes in Lineup and Albums (1967-1970):
- John Cale left the band in 1968, and Doug Yule joined as his replacement.
- The band released their second album, "White Light/White Heat" (1968), which continued their experimentation with noise and dissonance.
- Their third album, "The Velvet Underground" (1969), was more melodic and showcased a more subdued style compared to their previous work.
Post-VU Careers (1970s-1990s):
- The Velvet Underground disbanded in 1970, with various members pursuing solo careers. Lou Reed enjoyed a successful solo career, releasing albums like "Transformer" (1972) and "Berlin" (1973).
- The band's influence started to become more apparent in the 1970s as punk and alternative rock bands began to cite them as a major inspiration.
Reunion and Legacy (1990s-2000s):
- The Velvet Underground reunited in the early 1990s for a series of concerts, and they released a live album, "Live MCMXCIII" (1993).
- The band's music became even more celebrated, with younger generations of musicians embracing their work.
Lou Reed's Passing and End of an Era (2013):
- Lou Reed, the band's frontman and primary songwriter, passed away in 2013. His death marked the end of an era for the Velvet Underground.
Ongoing Influence and Recognition:
- The Velvet Underground's music and approach to songwriting, which often delved into dark, taboo themes, have left an indelible mark on alternative, punk, and indie rock music.
- They have been cited as a significant influence on artists such as David Bowie, Patti Smith, R.E.M., Joy Division, and countless others.
- In 2021, a documentary film titled "The Velvet Underground," directed by Todd Haynes, was released, further solidifying the band's importance in music history.
The Velvet Underground's legacy is characterized by their groundbreaking music, the fearless exploration of controversial subject matter, and their role in shaping the alternative music scene. They remain a pivotal and enduring force in the history of rock and roll.