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John Cale will perform ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ live in New York and Liverpool
10.26.2016
12:16 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground
John Cale


 
Velvet Underground bassist/violaist John Cale performed a moody, arty solo take on his band’s already moody and arty debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, last spring in Paris. That epochal album will turn 50 this coming spring, and Cale will celebrate by performing it again, on May 26 at Liverpool, England’s docklands, and in New York City on a date/venue yet to be announced. Quoted in The Quietus, Cale offered:

I’m often reluctant to spend too much time on things past, then a time marker shows up — The Velvet Underground & Nico turns 50. As so many bands can attest to, it is the fulfilment of the ultimate dream to record your first album. We were an unfriendly brand, dabbling in a world of challenging lyrics and weird sonics that didn’t fit into anyone’s playlist at the time.

Remaining ferociously true to our viewpoints, Lou and I never doubted for a moment we could create something to give a voice to things not regularly explored in rock music at the time. That bizarre combination of four distinctly disparate musicians and a reluctant beauty queen perfectly summed up what it meant to be The Velvet Underground.

Tickets for the Liverpool show will go on sale Friday, October 28. For a taste of what to expect, here are a few of clips from the Paris show last spring, including Saul Williams guesting on “Heroin,” Mark Lanegan singing “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and Lou Doillon singing “Femme Fatale.” Hopefully that all happens again at the New York show.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
ONO covers the Velvet Underground on an art museum loading dock
08.25.2016
11:55 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground
ONO


 
This blog has covered the legendary Chicago underground psych/performance group ONO before but a recap is in order anyway: musician P. Micheal Grego and mononymous singer/shaman Travis formed their theatrical anti-rock band in 1980, toiling in arty obscurity until throwing in the towel in 1986. Two decades later, they re-formed the band after interest in their two LPs Machines that Kill People and Ennui unexpectedly boomed. Since 2012, they’re released three new albums, and they finally toured outside Chicago in 2014.

They continue to tour today, with a greatly expanded membership that includes connections to other quality Chicago concerns like Tiger Hatchery and even Ministry. Travis has swapped his trademark dreadlocks for a clean-shaven dome and a brilliant white beard, and sports luminous white clothing to match—often wedding dresses. He’s a captivating sight; there a pitifully few frontmen as engaging and just plain watchable as Travis.

Last week, the band appeared in a concert on the loading docks of Cleveland, OH’s Museum of Contemporary Art, part of a far-too-short concert series that ends tomorrow night with a performance by concrète masters Form A Log. They shared the bill with a marvelous interactive dance performance by Space Beach and some jaw-dropping microtonal math rock from Baltimore’s Horse Lords, but ONO can’t really help but completely steal any show they appear on. Please enjoy my phone-cam footage of a delightful surprise they unleashed, a wonderfully droney nine-minute cover of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” an apt choice for a band whose singer favors hand-me-down gowns.
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
ONO: Vintage footage of the freaked-out ‘anti-music’ Chicago avant garde legends
Ministry’s Al Jourgensen guests on the new single by ONO: A DM premiere

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sucking on a ding-dong (for twelve minutes): The blowjob edit of ‘Sister Ray’
07.26.2016
10:37 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music

Tags:
Lou Reed
Velvet Underground
Sister Ray


 
This twelve-and-a-half minute edit of the Velvet Underground’s classic “Sister Ray” distills the entirety of that song to one of its more memorable lines: “Too busy sucking on a ding dong/She’s busy sucking on my ding dong.”

The seventeen minute one-riff wonder was conceived on a train ride home from a bad gig, and in its recorded form it takes up most of side two of White Light/White Heat. Its lyrics comprise a laundry list of debauchery in which a handful of drag queens and sailors score and take drugs. Someone gets shot, someone else gets a blowjob, and the cops show up. It’s undiluted insanity, and some of the most glorious noise the ‘60s ever produced. Per V.U. singer/honcho Lou Reed, quoted by biographer Victor Bockris in Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story:

When it came to putting the music to it, it had to be spontaneous. The jam came about right there in the studio. We didn’t use any splices or anything. I had been listening to a lot of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, and wanted to get something like that with a rock & roll feeling. When we did “Sister Ray”, we turned up to ten flat out, leakage all over the place. That’s it. They asked us what we were going to do. We said “We’re going to start.” They said “Who’s playing bass?” We said “There is no bass.” They asked us when it ends. We didn’t know. When it ends, that’s when it ends.

Since the improvised song, minus solo breaks, is basically one riff, the “Ding Dong” edit is hardly distinguishable from the original if you’ve got it going in the background, which won my laugh. Also, I must note that “Smack Daniels,” the YouTube user who uploaded (and presumably made) this unleashed it to the world in early November of 2013, shortly after Lou Reed died. There were a lot of extremely weird tributes to the man—which of course is perfectly fitting—but I think this one kind of wins, and I wish I knew about it when it was new.
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Lou Believers’: Sonic Youth in the weirdest Lou Reed ‘tribute’ you’ll ever see
Cranky Lou Reed interview from 1975 is full of hilariously nasty gems
Lou Reed and Brian Eno, together at last: it’s ‘Metal Machine Music For Airports’

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘New Madness at the Discothèque’: Velvet Underground in LIFE magazine exposé of 1966’s groovy scene


 
Issues of LIFE magazine from the mid- to late ‘60s can be a real trip, because they didn’t flinch from the changes happening in Western society during that time. True to its mandate, LIFE forthrightly addressed the rise of the drug culture, shocking new fashions, and the war in Vietnam, among many other topics that would have given the average reader in small-town America occasion for wonderment and concern.

The November 26, 1965, issue is commonly cited as a turning point—LIFE put on its cover a shocking photograph of a blindfolded Viet Cong prisoner being held by Marines, under the headline “The Blunt Reality of War in Vietnam.”

Just a few months later, in the May 27, 1966, issue, LIFE took a look at the groovalicious occurrences to be found in the discotheques across the country. The cover headline ran “New Madness at the Discothèque” but inside the story boasted the even more delightful headline “Wild New Flashy Bedlam of the Discothèque.”

I’m not 100% sure of this, but I suspect that the use of the French word discothèque would have been quite a bit weirder to U.S. audiences of that moment, than it is now—in other words its deployment represented a subtle bid to shock and discomfort the magazine’s staider readers.

The article in question was really a photo essay and therefore no writer was credited, even though the pictures are accompanied by generous captions. Since the story covered dance clubs in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, LIFE relied on a team of photographers that consisted of Steve Schapiro, T. Tanuma, Yale Joel, Declan Haun, and John Zimmerman.
 

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable play the Trip, May 1966
 
The first photo in the spread, on the top of p. 72, actually shows an unnamed Lou Reed and Co. playing a club called the Trip in Los Angeles, mentioned in the caption as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable under the aegis of Andy Warhol. The Velvet Underground actually were slated to play the Trip from May 3-18 but the sheriff’s dept. closed the joint down after the May 5 show. The article mentions none of that, interestingly.

Here’s a poster advertising that run at the Trip. Jim Morrison was apparently there on opening night. VU’s openers were the Mothers of Invention, but there was some evident friction between the two bands, and a local act called the Doors was apparently considered as a replacement for the Mothers’ slot, but it never happened.

The biggest club in the new scene, according to the piece, was called Arthur in New York, which was named after a quip from A Hard Day’s Night and was located at 154 East 54th Street. It was founded by Richard Burton’s first wife.

Other clubs mentioned in the piece were Bob Goldstein’s Lightworks lab (at the time he was going by “Bobb Goldsteinn”), which was based out of the Village; Cheetah at Broadway & 53rd, which Howie Pyro looked at for DM two years ago; the pulsating Le Bison in Chicago; and an enormous venue called The World, which was converted from an airplane hangar located in Garden City, New York.

In his book The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night Anthony Haden-Guest provides an interesting account of Le Bison’s signature attraction, “the Translator,” which
 

coded music into electrical pulses that activated a flashing light system. You could say that Ferri was fulfilling a project of the Decadents of the nineteenth century, who had dreamed of sense swapping. In one of Rimbaud’s poems each vowel was a color, and the Marquis d’ Esseintes, the hero of a novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, would inhale scents as though they were a symphony. The “Translator” made ear-to-eye transactions, turning thumping sound into fractious light for the new decadence.

 
More groovy LIFE in the 1960s, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Vintage 1970s Warhol / Velvet Underground-inspired banana record player


 
Over on Etsy, there’s a Warhol/Velvet Underground-inspired portable banana-shaped record player from the 1970s for sale. The asking price is $1500. That seems a bit steep to me, but truth be told, I’ve never seen one of these before. They must be pretty scarce!

From the write-up on Etsy:

Ok, folks. I bought this record player because the time to buy something you have never seen is when you see it. And I am a huge Warhol fan. At the time, I could find no information on this. A friend was able to find this old advertising for it in an old Speigel catalog. In searching the internet, there are only 2 of these known. There is one in Indianapolis that a guy has from his youth- a present from his grandmother. The other one is in the Banana Museum in California. I even wrote to the Warhol Foundation to find out if there was any kind of affiliation, but they had never heard anything about this and had no record. They came up with the same information I did. Mine is not perfect, it shows wear and I cannot determine if the black markings on this have been redone or if they are original- looking at the picture in the ad, it is still hard to tell, but they look rough to me. I still love this. It runs properly at all 3 speeds, but it will need a needle. The cord is in good condition and the case locks as it should. The ad touts that this will play in any position, even upside-down, but I would not suggest such a thing, as it cannot be good for your records.

If you’re interested in it or want to contact seller, click here.


 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Loaded’: The Velvet Underground in 5.1 surround, win a free box set from Rhino
11.03.2015
12:05 pm

Topics:
Advertorial
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground


 
Here’s the TL;DR version: If you are an aficionado of 5.1 surround music, run, do not walk, to buy the new Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set NOW. Don’t hesitate. It’s fucking amazing.

For readers who want a more considered review, read on. Full disclosure, this is a sponsored post, but I can promise you that what you’re reading is 100% the way I really feel.

I had been very, very anxious to hear the newly reloaded Velvet Underground Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set. I’m a big fan of surround music and I am a big fan of the Velvet Underground, so the idea that I would get to hear Loaded, one of my favorite albums of all time in 5.1 surround seemed too good to be true. I recently moved and made a point not to set up my audio system until I had said VU box set in hand. I wanted it to be the first thing I listened to in the new place. For days I watched the mail like a hungry hawk. It arrived late yesterday morning. Around 5pm, I started setting up my audio system, calibrated everything for the new room it was in, etc., and then just as I was about to toke up, sit down and listen, the amp went into protection mode, shut down and an error message told me to “check speaker wires.” Shit!

It took me five incredibly annoying hours of troubleshooting until I found the culprit, a tiny splinter of barely visible copper wiring that was touching between two poles on one of the speakers. I had to remove it with tweezers it was so small. In any case, I mention this because while I was removing the speakers and adding them back in one at time to figure out the source of my problem, starting with the center speaker, I was playing the 5.1 surround mix of Loaded and it was very interesting to hear the component parts of an album that I thought I was molecularly familiar with in that new way.
 

 
And that’s the point of 5.1 surround audio, to hear something “classic” with fresh ears, like you’re hearing it for the first time. Well, I just listened to it twice this morning, all the way through, and here are my initial thoughts. As it would be pointless for me to “expound” on Loaded and try to come up with something new and profound to say about it, I won’t insult my reader’s intelligence, because honestly who cares what I think about this classic? (I don’t care what you think either.) I just wanted to give my opinion of “the product” here.

So on the count of “hearing something old again with fresh ears,” they certainly did right by Loaded. The mixes, done by Kevin Reeves at Republic/4th Floor Studios in New York, are very well realized and he’s made some choices—very good ones, creatively, I hasten to add—that I think many a producer would not have made. There’s somewhat of an orthodoxy when it comes to mixing for 5.1 that some mixers fall into—favoring the fronts is how I’d put it—that Reeves wisely avoids. Lou Reed and Doug Yule’s lead vocal tracks are pushed up high in the mix, making Yule’s voice sound more innocent, for instance, while Reed’s vocals are so well presented here that you can practically hear the spittle spraying the microphone. Nuance galore is revealed. The lead vocals often appear “bare” in the center speakers, but other than that, Reeves really endeavored to truly “surround” the listener. The Association meets street corner doo wop backing vocals are given a full sonic spread. The wall of guitars in “Rock and Roll” is MIND-BLOWING coming at you from all sides. “Sweet Jane” sounds so damned crisp and you’re right smack in the middle of it. I thought it was a thrilling ride from start to finish. By the time it ended with “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” I felt like I was listening to the saddest song of all time. (I’ve always loved that song, but hearing it in 5.1 was like a religious experience.)

Best archival release of the year so far, hands down (and I haven’t even listened to anything other than the 5.1 mix so far). If you’re a Velvets nut and into 5.1 surround, this is what you want for Christmas... if you can wait that long.

Or you can try to win one from Rhino:
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Hear the ‘Sweet Jane’ demo from the new Velvet Underground box set, a Dangerous Minds exclusive
10.28.2015
11:48 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground


 
It’s only a matter of days before the new six disc Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set of the 1970 Velvet Underground classic comes out. I’ve been bugging the label about getting a copy of this hefty sucker—which includes demos, the Live at Max’s Kansas City show remastered and another set from the Second Fret in Philadelphia, plus, for the first time ever, a 5.1 surround remix of Loaded, which frankly I am salivating to hear.

Here’s a previously unreleased version of “Sweet Jane”—it’s an early take of the song from disc three of the box set. It starts out slow and tenuous, as if Reed is teaching the song to the rest of the group for the first time, but soon he starts feeling the… power, I guess, of his song and it starts to take flight. In a 2005 interview, band member Doug Yule revealed that the song’s signature riff wasn’t arrived at until right before they recorded it. Certainly they were nowhere near that place at this stage of the song’s development.
 

 
We’ll have a full review of Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition in a few days, in the meantime, this should tide you over.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Intimate photos of Andy Warhol’s Factory Superstars, the Velvet Underground and Nico
09.30.2015
12:51 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground
Nico
Billy Name


1966
 
I wonder how many people in the world had a romance with Andy Warhol and also combined that with being a significant influence on Warhol’s work. You make your list and I’ll make mine, but we shouldn’t discount the possibility that that list will start and end with Billy Name. Born William Linich, Jr., Name was a prominent lighting designer in NYC and even won an Obie for his lighting around the time he met Warhol, which was in 1959.

He had a brief romance with Warhol which evolved into a long-lasting friendship and collaboration. Name was selected to be the archivist for the Factory. At one point Warhol handed him a camera and said, “Here, Billy, you do the stills photography,” and Name’s identity as a photographer was born. By that time, Name had already gone ahead and “silverized” a dilapidated hat factory on East 47th Street, transforming it into one of the most iconic places of the late 1960s. In The Warhol Diaries, Warhol said of Name that he “had a manner that inspired confidence. He gave the impression of being generally creative, he dabbled in lights and papers and artists materials. ... I picked up a lot from Billy.”

Today at the Serena Morton II gallery at 345 Ladbroke Grove in London starts an exhibition of Name’s Warhol-era photos called “Billy Name: The Silver Age” that runs for roughly three weeks. There is a lovely associated book with the same title that came out last year from Reel Art Press, and if you want to hear some eye-popping blurbs, check these two out: Gerard Malanga said that “Billy’s book will go down in history as the best book about Warhol,” whereas Warhol himself said, “Billy’s photos were the only thing that ever came close to capturing the feel of the 1960s Silver Factory.”

The Guardian recently interviewed Name, now 75, at the Mid-Regional Hospital in his hometown of Poughkeepsie (where I attended college, as it happens) for “extreme dehydration” along with a host of other ailments. All of us at DM wish him a speedy recovery.

All of the pictures in this post you can see in a larger version by clicking on them.
 

Warhol using a pay phone at the 1964 World’s Fair
 

Nico, 1967
 

Warhol in the original Factory studio, 1964
 

VU, 1967
 
A bunch more masterful Billy Name shots after the jump…...
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pre-Velvet Underground Nico in Spanish brandy advertisements, 1964
09.14.2015
02:10 pm

Topics:
Advertising

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground
Nico


 
These Centenario Terry brandy ad, made for Spanish TV, dates back to 1964 and feature a young and impossibly beautiful Christa Päffgen who would soon go on to join the Velvet Underground at the behest of Andy Warhol.

Years later we have this entry from Andy Warhol’s Diary on Monday October 6th, 1980:

“Went to C.Z. Guest’s for drinks. A guy there told me, “We have someone in common.” He said that his family owned all the brandy and sherry in Spain and that in the sixties Nico was the girl in all their advertisements in all the posters and subways and magazines, that she was famous all over Spain. He wanted to know where this beautiful girl was now and I said that it was a whole other person, that he’d never believe it, that she was fat and a heroin addict. He wanted to see her and I said that if she was still playing at the Squat Theatre we could go see her.”

There used to be a few more of these ads on YouTube, but most seemed to have vanished.
 

 
The actor here, Hans Meyer was apparently closely associated with this particular brand of cognac.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Velvet Underground: New box set FINALLY releases legendary scorching live material from 1969
09.10.2015
02:26 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground


 
You would think that by now—after fifty years—the cupboard would be getting pretty bare when it comes to unreleased Velvet Underground material, but that’s simply not the case. Despite the incredible amount of material made available for the first time on legit releases in recent years via UMe’s Super Deluxe packages, there is still even more to come. And not just a little, but a lot of primo vintage VU white light, white heat recorded in high fidelity.

First off, the Super Deluxe Loaded is out on October 30th, but on that very same day Polydor will be released something VU fans have been salivating over for years, a four CD box set of The Matrix Tapes. Forty-two songs were known to exist, recorded during the Matrix run on 4-track half-inch open reel tape running at 15ips and this will be the first release of all of these live recordings (many were included on the 1969 Live double album and the Super Deluxe set of the third VU album). Samples of the songs (which fade out midway) have been seen on bootleg torrent trackers and audio blogs for years and the quality was known to be very, very high. The story that circulated about them is that the original audio engineer who taped them sold the physical tapes to an Italian collector, who we can presume made a deal with the label to put it out.

Velvet Underground historian Richie Unterberger writes:

Two-to-three-minute excerpts of nine of these tracks and a seven-minute excerpt of “Sister Ray”—all starting at the beginning of the songs, and fading out mid-performance—that have leaked into circulation verify that the sound quality on these recordings is outstanding, and notably (though not hugely) superior to the tapes used on 1969 Velvet Underground Live. Of even more interest, the performances themselves are good-to-superb, including a version of the rarely-heard “There She Goes Again” with noticeably more jagged rhythm guitar than the studio cut; “I’m Set Free” with magnificent Reed lead vocals; a really slowed-down “I’m Waiting for the Man” with great curling blues guitar riffing, and a cool interjection of ominously stroked chords right after the white boy’s asked what he’s doing uptown; and a “Sister Ray” that starts off super-slow and bluesy, but just keeps accelerating in rhythm and intensity until the tape cruelly cuts off. If not quite as novel, the other excerpts—including “Ocean,” “Some Kinda Love” (introduced as “an alcoholic’s dream”), “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” “After Hours,” and two versions of “Venus in Furs”—likewise make the Velvet Underground fan yearn for the day when these tapes can be released.

And now they will be. The thing that pisses me off is that they have gorgeous multitrack recordings of the freaking Velvet Underground playing live, so why didn’t they do a surround mix???

The setlists, after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Moe Gets Tied Up,’ Andy Warhol’s ultra-rare 1966 movie starring the Velvet Underground
06.25.2015
10:16 am

Topics:
Art
Movies
Music

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground


 
A very, very seldom-seen Andy Warhol movie, called Moe Gets Tied Up or, alternatively, Moe in Bondage, is up on YouTube, and it has had a scant 89 views as I type. While this Velvet Underground footage is not quite as much fun as A Symphony of Sound, Warhol’s must-see film of a VU and Nico rehearsal jam—mainly since there’s no music in this one—boy, it sure is seldom encountered. Shot in 1966, it predates their once-despised, now-lionized debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The “Moe” of the title is the Velvets’ drummer, Maureen Tucker, whose bandmates have tied her to a chair and are now hanging around nibbling on sandwiches and pieces of fruit. It is sure to disappoint the pain fetishists among you. Look at it this way: if you’d never heard “Venus in Furs,” this film might give you the impression that the Velvets’ sex kicks consisted not so much of S&M as benign neglect.

Very little information is available about this movie because so few people have seen it, but the 32-minute version below seems to be missing a large chunk. A Velvet Underground filmography claims that the original is “a two-reel set for double screen projection” and notes the existence of “35-minute unofficial video copies,” one of which is likely the source of this vid. When MoMA screened Moe Gets Tied Up in 2008, the Village Voice reported that it “begins with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison tying Moe Tucker, quite inexpertly, to a chair.” Since Tucker is already tied up at the start of the video below, and since the Voice review gives the movie’s length as one hour and six minutes, I’m going to bet that this is roughly the movie’s second half. (Incidentally, the review says nothing about double screen projection.) The Voice writer, who is mysteriously identified in the byline as “Village Voice Contributor,” also complains that almost none of the movie’s dialogue is audible, so don’t blame the buzzing soundtrack of this bootleg if you can’t make out what Sterling Morrison is mumbling about sandwiches. If you really need to know what people were talking about at the Factory, you can always read a.

Now if someone could please upload Velvet Underground Tarot Cards...
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Amazing ‘Mod Wedding’ with Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground & Nico, 1966
06.15.2015
12:59 pm

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground
Nico


 
Picture it: You’re a steady couple in Detroit, it’s the mid-‘60s and you’re hip sort of people, and you get a chance for Andy Warhol, Nico, and the Velvet Underground to participate in your nuptials, making it the world’s first-ever “mod wedding.” What could be better?

This actually happened. The date of the wedding was November 20, 1966, and it was one of the concluding events of a three-day festival held in Detroit called the Carnaby Street Fun Festival, at which the Velvet Underground and the Yardbirds played. The lucky couple were named Gary Norris and Randi Rossi.

In 2011 some ephemera from this event I would love to get a look at were auctioned off at Christie’s, including a five-page “press release” called Pop Goes the Wedding, and an invitation to, ahem, “The Nation’s First Mod Wedding to Unite Two Typical Mod Teenagers in the Bonds of Holy Matrimony.”

In a bio of Al Abrams, the noted promoter who dreamt up the Carnaby Street Fun Fair as well as the idea of having a wedding of this type, it states that Norris and Rossi were not the first couple selected for the event: “The pair earned the chance to exchange their vows in the highly publicized ceremony after the original couple, who had won the wedding competition on the popular Detroit radio station WKNR, had to withdraw.“

Here’s Steven Watson in Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties discussing how the event came about:
 

Perhaps the most conspicuous of [the band’s] Sixties events was a Detroit fair called the Carnaby Street Fun Festival. … As a centerpiece, a Motown publicist [almost certainly Abrams] thought up the idea of a Mod Wedding. Since Andy Warhol was “the father of Pop Art,” he became the perfect choice to play the father of the bride. A columnist for The Detroit News dug up a couple to get married—a twenty-five-year-old clothing salesman and his nineteen-year-old, unemployed go-go dancer girlfriend. While Gary Norris and Randi Rossi were married before a crowd of forty-five hundred, the Velvet Underground played “Here Comes the Bride,” and a roadie pounded on a car with a sledgehammer. After the ceremony Andy signed some Campbell’s Soup cans and threw them into the crowd, and he and the bride cut the six-foot cake with a sword. “It would be in better taste if you had those people throwing up on each other,” Dick Clark told the event’s organizer.

 

 
Reaction at the time had more than its share of eye-rolling disgust. This account by Linda La Marre appeared in The Detroit News the next day; in addition to being pretty well written, it achieves a mocking, derisive tone I’ve seldom encountered in a news story before. The article can be found in Clinton Heylin’s essential compendium All Yesterdays’ Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print, 1966-1971.
 

“Mother’s Mod Lament”

by Linda La Marre

The Detroit News, November 21, 1966

Holy matrimony was replaced by unholy pandemonium in what was billed as a wedding yesterday at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum.

It was a marriage in the Mod Tradition. The country’s first. And let’s hope it’s not what’s happening, baby.

Wearing a white minigown, eight inches over her knees and white, thigh-high boots, Randy Rossi, 18, became the bride of clothing salesman Gary Norris, 25, amid a melange of simultaneous “happenings.”

Andy Warhol, of soup can painting fame and the “father of Pop art,” arrived from New York to give away the bride. With him came his rock & roll group, the Velvet Underground, vocalist Nico, and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Warhol’s gaudy lighting effects.

Some 4,500 shaggy-haired wedding guests swarmed the arena for the prenuptial rituals. Electronic devices screamed, guitars and drums throbbed and a fiddle added to the din as ppurple and orange lights splashed dots and squares across the stage.

“Hey, we’re really witnessing something, it’s history, history!” a young girl shouted.

Huddled on the sidelines were the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Rossi of Mt. Clemens, the bridegroom’s mother, Mrs. Thelma Norris, of Taylor, his sister and brother-in-law, the Robert Wionceks, of Dearborn.

“It’s not the kind of wedding we had planned for our daughter,” Mrs. Rossi said, as eerie screeches emitted from the stage.

“He’s old enough to know his own mind,” Mrs. Norris added, while Nico, clad in a lavender pantsuit, cupped the mike in both hands and began moaning some song.

After an eternity of noise, a black Rolls-Royce with the bridal couple slowly backed into the arena. The pair wisely chose to stay inside the car a few moments.

Warhol’s psychedelic sounds, which seek to create the same illusion as mind-expanding drugs, succeeded.

Gerard [Malanga], the whip dancer, slithered and spun across the darkened stage. Another member of the cast hopped atop a wrecked DeSoto, bashing it with a sledge hammer.

“If I take to love, will I find you gone,” groaned Nico. Warhol ascended the platform, paint bucket and catsup bottles in hand. Contents of both containers were carefully applied to a girl wearing a white paper dress throughout the proceedings.

The bride smiled as she marched up the platform steps. The bridegroom wore a gray checked, Beatle-type suit, black boots, green and white flowered tie. He looked sober.

The couple volunteered for the Mod wedding, which concluded the three-day Carnaby Street Fun Festival. Their reward, a free honeymoon in New York and screen test with Warhol.

After giving away the bride Warhol sat serenely upon a box of tomato soup, autographing cans. A color film of Nico’s face flickered on and off the back curtains as she read a few appropriate, but indistinguishable sentences from a yellow book.

Another member of the cast paraded with a five-foot Baby Ruth candy bar balloon, Warhol’s gift to the newlyweds.

 
My favorite bit in there is La Marre’s description of the music: “Nico, clad in a lavender pantsuit, cupped the mike in both hands and began moaning some song…..”

This online forum on VU supplies a detail that nobody else I consulted had. La Marre reports that Warhol gave the bride away, but on this forum, a user named “taxine” asserts that Nico officiated the wedding. I’m not sure if she did or didn’t, but the photo taxine supplied seems to bear it out. The quality could be a little better, but this sure as heckfire looks to me like Warhol giving the bride away while Nico officiates:
 

 
Rob Jovanovic’s Seeing the Light: Inside the Velvet Underground furnishes an illuminating quotation from Moe Tucker that clarifies the identity of the man with the sledgehammer: “That was lunacy. ... We were playing but [Paul] Cézanne was recruited to beat the hell out of a car with a sledge hammer, during the ceremony and during our set. I don’t know what the significance was!”

Jovanovic suggests that the Yardbirds also played the wedding and covered “I’m Waiting for the Man.” The Yardbirds did play all three days of the Carnaby Street Fun Festival, but nobody else mentions the detail of the Yardbirds playing the wedding—I think what actually happened is that the Yardbirds played the festival and during at least one of their sets (six sets, two per day) they played “I’m Waiting for the Man,” but they weren’t playing the wedding and didn’t cover the song at the wedding per se. At least that’s the impression this chronology gives.

Here are a few more pics, including a great action shot of Cézanne destroying the car with a sledgehammer.
 

 

 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico have a Velvet Underground reunion on French TV, 1972
04.01.2015
05:25 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Velvet Underground
Nico
John Cale
Lour Reed


 
Although I’ve posted about this show in the past, there was never a full version of it on YouTube in decent quality that I could embed, just bits and bobs, but this morning, looking for something else entirely I came across it and wanted to share on the blog. In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the POP 2 TV program at Le Bataclan, a well-known—and very intimate—Parisian music venue. It was Cale’s gig originally and he invited Reed and Nico to join him. Reed, who hated rehearsing, spent two days with Cale working out what they were going to do. According to Victor Bockris’ Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.
 

 
Both the TV broadcast and just the audio from the show and the soundcheck have been heavily bootlegged over the decades. A legit CD release happened a few years ago, but it still sounds like a bootleg. A high quality video turned up on various torrent trackers and bootleg blogs after a rebroadcast on French TV a few years back. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” that night which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson is alleged to have!
 

 
This is Reed coming off his first solo record and just a few months before he recorded “Walk on the Wild Side” with David Bowie and Mick Ronson and took on a totally different public—and we can presume, private—persona. This is “Long Island Lou” seen just before Reed’s druggy bisexual alter-ego showed up. Cale is heard doing “Ghost Story” from his Vintage Violence album and Nico looks stunning and happy here singing “Femme Fatale.” It’s before the damage of her drug addiction took its toll on her looks.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The occult book that inspired the Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’
02.12.2015
09:47 am

Topics:
Music
Occult

Tags:
Lou Reed
Velvet Underground
Alice Bailey


The cover of Alice Bailey’s 1934 book.
 
Recently, I was reading a feature about Jonathan Richman in a 1986 issue of SPIN. This startling (to me, anyway) quote from Lou Reed jumped off the page:

One of my big mistakes was turning [Richman] on to Alice Bailey, that’s where that insect song comes from. I said, “Do you know, Jonathan, that insects are a manifestation of negative ego thoughts? That’s on page 114.” So he got that. That’s a dangerous set of books. That’s why Billy Name locked himself in his darkroom at Andy Warhol’s Factory for five months.


Wait a minute: Lou Reed was interested in Alice Bailey? Like, the theosophist Alice Bailey? Like, the musician Lou Reed, from New York City? Magic And Loss, okay, but I can’t hardly believe that the Lou Reed I’ve listened to for most of my life ever gave a flying fuck about esoteric matters. And that’s why Billy Name became such a recluse? Shut the front door, I said to the 1986 issue of SPIN; surely, Lou was pulling the journalist’s leg, putting him on, taking the piss.

How little I know. As it turns out, not only was Reed genuinely interested in Bailey’s work, but the Velvets’ “White Light/White Heat” was inspired by Bailey’s A Treatise on White Magic. That “white light goin’ messin’ up my mind” wasn’t just the rush of speed; Lou was singing about some heavy astral shit! Rock historian Richie Unterberger developed the Reed/Bailey connection while researching his White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day. Here’s Unterberger’s take on the song’s relationship to Bailey’s teachings, and to Reed’s occult interests:

Specifically, “White Light/White Heat” is often assumed to be about the exhilarating effects of crystal methedrine amphetamines, and Reed does say the song “is about amphetamines” in his 1971 interview with Metropolitan Review. But an equally likely, and perhaps more interesting, inspiration is Alice Bailey’s occult book A Treatise on White Magic. It advises control of the astral body by a “direct method of relaxation, concentration, stillness and flushing the entire personality with pure White Light, with instructions on how to ‘call down a stream of pure White Light.’” And it’s known for certain that Reed was familiar with the volume, as he calls it “an incredible book” in a November 1969 radio interview in Portland, Oregon.

Additionally, in his “I Was a Velveteen” article in Kicks, Rob Norris remembers Reed explaining “White Light/White Heat” as one example of “how a lot of his songs embodied the Virgo-Pisces [astrological] opposition and could be taken two ways.” Norris, who would get to know the band personally at the Boston Tea Party, also thinks the “white light” concept might have informed another of the album’s songs, “I Heard Her Call My Name.” “He was very interested in a form of healing just using light, projecting light,” says Norris today.

Incidentally, Reed wasn’t the only major ‘60s rock artist influenced by Bailey; Kinks guitarist Dave Davies discusses white light energy in his autobiography Kink, which reprints a couple extended quotes from Bailey’s books. Also interested in “white light” was Lou’s friend from the Factory who ended up doing the White Light/White Heat cover, Billy Name. According to Reed’s unpublished 1972 ZigZag interview, Name “got so far into it he locked himself in a closet for two years, and just never came out…I know what he was doing because I was the one who started him on the books [by Alice Bailey on magic], and we went through all fifteen volumes.”

 

 
In this excerpt from The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day, Unterberger gives a detailed account of Reed’s 1969 interview with Portland radio station KVAN. Here’s the relevant passage:

The Velvets will later be portrayed as a kind of ultimate anti-psychedelic group, but are in fact very much people of their time. Reed even steers this particular discussion in a direction that would find favor with the most spaced-out of hippies. He’s just had his aura read, he says, and had his previous incarnations revealed by a ‘reverend’ in Los Angeles, where “they told Doug, for instance, if you have long hair, you should always get it trimmed a little, get the ends cut off, because you’d pick up spiritual wasps.” (For the record, Lou’s aura was white, with “some blue, some green.”) Reed also reveals that he’s had 1,143 past lives. “Geez, that’s a lotta lives,” the deejay replies.

Reed goes on to hint at the origin of the “white light” he sings about in ‘White Light/White Heat’ when he reveals that he has recently been investigating a Japanese form of healing in Los Angeles that’s “a way of giving off white light … I’ve been involved and interested in what they call white light for a long time.” He briefly talks about Alice Bailey and her occult book A Treatise On White Magic, another likely source of his interest in white light. “It costs like ten dollars, unfortunately,” he notes apologetically. (Reed’s interest in such matters might later seem rather unlikely, given his hard-bitten, realist image. But Rob Norris recalls discussing “angels, saints, the universe, diet, yoga, meditation, Jesus, healing with music, cosmic rays, and astrology” with Reed in the late 60s in an article for Kicks magazine. Furthermore, he recalls Reed being a member of the Church Of Light in New York, which studied Bailey’s work as part of its theosophical teachings.)

Lita Eliscu’s 1970 Crawdaddy interview with Reed, “A Rock Band Can Be A Form of Yoga” (reprinted in All Yesterdays’ Parties), also mentions Reed’s interest in Bailey’s writings—to wit, “The teaching planned by the Hierarchy to precede and condition the New Age, the Aquarian Age.” News to me. Despite the song’s obvious beauty, I always figured Lou was merely being snide in the chorus of “New Age.”

Here’s a frenzied “White Light/White Heat” from one of the Velvets’ Boston Tea Party shows in 1969:
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Three DVD box set pays tribute to Lou Reed, Velvets, Iggy, Bowie and punk


 
Seemingly just as Lou Reed left this earth, I noticed this box set on Amazon called Lou Reed Tribute from Chrome Dreams, a UK company that has put out some cool DVDs (this one, Frank Zappa, Keith Richards, etc.) and some stuff that puzzles me (Springsteen, Prince, Britney Spears?).

I wasn’t sure about it but it had three DVDs in a nicely designed box and it was so inexpensive that I had to get it. I had just learned about another product of theirs that looked great, a double DVD documentary about Zappa and Beefheart called When Don Met Frank: Beefheart Vs. Zappa, only to read in the reviews that it was a total ripoff and that it was two old documentaries repackaged in one set without any mention of this anywhere on the product. I was prepared for the worst.
 
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Surprisingly, these were actually pretty good! First up is The Velvet Underground Under Review—yes, the awful title sounds like a science project, but inside is a concise and interesting documentary featuring interviews with at least one person I’d never seen interviewed before (Norman Dolph, who did their first demo acetate that’s been floating around the last few years and is, in fact, on eBay now for $65,000). I really liked the Billy Name segments as he was actually there on the inside in those early days, which they go into pretty deeply, including the pre-Velvets Pickwick Records budget-goofy rock ‘n’ roll recordings Lou was doing, which I love (and which were not all goofy as there was some true garage greatness in there as well). Also great are the Moe Tucker and Doug Yule interviews.

It had a good approach and really, I can watch stuff like this all day.
 
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The second DVD is The Sacred Triangle: Bowie Iggy & Lou 1971-1973. I really enjoyed this one, though as I started to realize, Chrome Dreams is a bit of a “quickie” company and similar people were overlapped in this and the other DVDs making me realize that these were probably not originally intended to be watched back to back. This also has some amazing interviews, and again really delves into the early days of Bowie’s more whimsical period in the sixties when he was already obsessed and ripping off (and covering) The Velvet Underground, having been given one of the first and only pre first album demo acetates in 1965 or ‘66.

It goes into great detail about Bowie’s “cool beginnings” when the cast of Andy Warhol’s play Pork were in London and looking for bands to see and decided to go see an unknown David Bowie because he was wearing a dress on his then-current album cover. These people (Tony Zanetta, Cherry Vanilla, Wayne County and Leee Black Childers) all became Mainman Ltd., the bizarre company that ran most of Bowie’s affairs and mutated him into Ziggy Stardust in no time. Seeing Leee Black Childers (R.I.P.) interviewed, with him in his rockabilly best and with a big Band-aid® on his forehead said it all as far as who he was and how much he gave a fuck, one of the first true punk rockers, ever.

Similarly but multiplied by a hundred is Wayne, now Jayne County (“now” meaning for the last 35 years or so!) who is amazing in a huge red chair with a wild matching red outfit, makeup and her trademark fishnet stockings over her arms like long gloves, talking matter of factly about what really went down. Everyone knows Jayne County as a glam and then punk rock innovator, but we forget (or some don’t know) that Jayne was a real Warhol Superstar along with Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis. And Jayne starred in Warhol’s Pork (as Vulva, a characterization of Viva). The interviews with Angie Bowie, as always, are insane and classic. This DVD was really great and informative about my favorite small moment in rock n roll. The only annoyance is that they didn’t know who Cherry Vanilla is, and they talk about her a lot as she starred in Pork but kept showing a photo of someone else every time they referred to her!
 
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The last DVD, Punk Revolution NYC: The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and the CBGB Set 1966-1974 is also really great, surprisingly. Believe me, with a title like this, where I come from this should be a real groaner, but it wasn’t. Not to discredit some of the interviewees, but I think that a lot of bigger names wouldn’t talk to Chrome Dreams, or couldn’t, so they had to dig deeper and get some people that did not become famous, but certainly are people I know that most definitely deserve to be interviewed and put a new spin on a now pretty tired subject. So it actually worked in their favor.

A good “for instance” is Elda Stiletto (Gentile), someone I knew and someone who is the perfect bridge to the exact time frame of this documentary. Elda was married to Warhol Superstar Eric Emerson. Emerson started pretty much the first glitter band in NYC, The Magic Tramps, only to be steamrolled by the New York Dolls and all that came in their path. Eric Emerson was also the upside down figure on The Velvet Underground and Nico LP’s back cover, who sued hoping to get some quick dough, but was foiled when he just caused the LP to be delayed, first with a big sticker covering him, then with his image being airbrushed out of the photo entirely. (Why none of this was mentioned is beyond me.) Elda Stiletto then went on to form The Stilettos with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, a sort of “glitter doo wop” group that morphed into Blondie after all the other girls were gotten rid of. Two of the other gals in The Stilettos were Tish and Snooky who would go on to sing in The Sic Fucks and founded Manic Panic, a small punk store (that is now a large corporation—I was their first employee!) on St. Marks Place (just a few doors down from where The Dom was, where The Velvets played, later to become The Electric Circus where The Stooges and many others played).

Also interviewed are Suicide’s Alan Vega, Richard Lloyd from Television, Leee Black Childers and Jayne County, this time in the most insane outfit ever! She’s on a big black couch, reclining on her back, facing the camera completely covered in a ton of black fabric so she looks like a demented floating disembodied head! Ha ha!! To top it all off she’s wearing a black witchy wig and crazy electric blue makeup that is just insane looking. She never fails to blow my mind! They also talked to Richard Hell, Ivan Julian from The Voidoids, photographer Roberta Bayley, Danny Fields and more. There was oddly, no mention of The Ramones!

Ultimately all three DVDs come off like extremely dry BBC docs and there is a lot of overlap, but it doesn’t totally take away from the experience. The punk DVD just suddenly says “End of Part One” and stops, which is annoying because it actually was good. Where is part two? Sprinkled throughout these documentaries are critics like Robert Christgau and Simon Reynolds, biographer Victor Bockris and other experts.

Below, here’s the lead doc, The Velvet Underground Under Review. The quality is “eh” so you might want to get the DVDs. The Lou Reed Tribute DVD box set sells for less than $20 on Amazon. Used it’s under $10.
 

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
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