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Velvet Underground, The

1964 in New York City, NY


John Cale, a British art student and musician, was performing with the avante guarde group The Dream Academy when he met Lou Reed at a party one night. The two instantly hit it off, and began jamming together under a variety of names. Sterling Morrison and Angus MacLise were added, and a band originally called The Pixies was born. The Pixies released a few singles before officially changing their name to the Velvet Underground, taken from a title of a porno paperback. Their music was too harsh for the mainstream, both lyrically and melodically. Their topics ranged from recreational drug use to kinky sex acts, and both subjects were still considered taboo at the time. In 1965, the band caught the attention of eccentric artist and socialite Andy Warhol, who became their manager and creative liaison. Under Andy's direction, the band added German-born vocalist Nico, who front the band. While some of the band like Nico and considered her a positive female force, drummer MacLise quits and is quickly replaced by Maureen Tucker. By 1966, the band was playing popular beatnik gigs around New York City's Greenwich Village, and they became regulars at Cafe Bizarre and Andy Warhol's infamous Factory. Verve, an up-and-coming label under the MGM umbrella, picked them up in 1966, and they released their debut album a year later. Nico and the Velvet Underground was released surrounded by hype caused by Andy Warhol and his peeling banana album cover, but the album stalled at number 171 on the charts. The songs on the album were too risque for radio, and album sales eventually started to reflect the slow public response due to lack of radio promotion. One year later, the band released White Light, White Heat. It didn't do too well either, squeaking out a spot on the top 200 albums chart at number 199. The band toured Europe extensively, as they discovered they were much more popular there than they were in the states. Discord within the band finally came to a head when Cale left the band, siting creative differences with Reed. Cale was replaced by Doug Yule, and the show went on. The following year, 1969, saw the release of The Velvet Underground, which completed the band's obligation to MGM. They were dropped by Verve, but immediately picked up by Atlantic Records. Having recorded The Velvet Underground in L.A., the band felt they needed to get back to their roots on the East coast. They flew to New York, where they would play a month's worth of shows at Max's Kansas City. Loaded is recorded and released, amidst personnel changes and solo albums. As it would end, there would be no original members left in the band at all. The new band, consisting of Yule on bass, Walter Powers on vocals, and Willie Alexander on guitar, put out Squeeze under the Velvet Underground name in 1973. Grasping at straws, Atlantic releases a double-live album taken from a bootleg, aptly titled Double Live at Max's Kansas City - 1969 in 1974. The original band was never together in their entirety again, but there were a couple of impromptu reunions between just a couple of band members. Even though the band never had any top twenty hits, and record sales were less than idealistic throughout their career, they have become one of the most influential bands in rock. The Velvet Underground truly were a band ahead of their time. Many claim that the Underground is virtually single-handedly 0responsible for the entire genre of alternative music.

Band Members:
John Cale
Lou Reed

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