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The Velvet Underground

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The Velvet Underground was an American rock and roll band of the late 1960s. Members for the first two albums were:

Although never commercially successful, the Velvet Underground remain one of the most influential bands of their time. Indeed, Brian Eno is purported to have said that, "Only five thousand people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them started a band." Whilst the West coast was undergoing the Summer of Love, psychedelia and flower power[?] the typically East coast Velvets concerned themselves with darker subject matter: transvestites, heroin addiction and sadomasochism. Also setting them apart from their contemporaries was their use of feedback and amplifier noise in a musical context, exemplified by the 17 minute "Sister Ray".

Andy Warhol became the band's manager after seeing them play in 1965, and it was at his instigation that they featured German chanteuse Nico on their debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico. The album showcased their stylistic range, veering from the droning attacks of "I'm Waiting For The Man", "Venus In Furs" and "Heroin" to the quiet "Femme Fatale" and even tender(!) "I'll Be Your Mirror". The sound was propelled by the strong deadpan vocals of Reed, the viola drones of Cale, the country-style licks of Morrison, and the hypnotically simple but steady beat of Tucker, who played on an upturned bass drum with mallets. The album cover was famous for its simple Warhol banana design and original copies actually peeled off.

Nico had been jettisoned by the second album, which emphasized a feedback-laced fuzzy sound. It was a travesty of engineering, but an inspiration to later musicians of the lo-fi movement. But despite the dominance of noisefests like "Sister Ray", the title track (later covered by David Bowie), and "I Heard Her Call My Name", there was room for the darkly comic "The Gift", a Reed short story narrated in Cale's deadpan Welsh accent and the meditative "Here She Comes Now", later covered by Nirvana. The second album cover was a subtle black on black picture of the tattoo of one of Warhol's Factory members.

Before the release of their third album Reed fired the classically trained Cale, who was replaced by Doug Yule[?]. This, and the theft of the band's equipment, resulted in a more gentle folky sound for the record which showcased the songwriting styles that would inform Reed's later solo career and Morrison's ringing looping guitar parts, and Yule's melodic bass and harmonies.

They recorded a fourth album which was never officially released due to disputes with their record label. Most of it was released many years later as VU[?]. This album had a transitional sound between the whisper soft third album and the pop-rock anthems of their final record, Loaded. After Reed's departure, he later raided and reworked a number of these songs for his solo records (Stephanie Says, Ocean, I Can't Stand It, Lisa Says).

They switched labels for their final album, Loaded[?], which contained "Sweet Jane", one of Reed's best known songs and the most accessible poppy songs they could manage. The album was remixed after Reed's departure, much to his bitterness. He was particularly bitter about the truncation of "Sweet Jane". The record was recorded with Doug Yule's brother on drums, as Mo Tucker was pregnant.

The band split, with Yule recording one final album.

There was a brief reunion of the original lineup in 1993. Sterling Morrison died of cancer in 1995. Nico died of a brain hemorrhage on the island of Ibiza in 1988.


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