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Intimate photos of Andy Warhol’s Factory Superstars, the Velvet Underground and Nico
09:51 am


Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground
Billy Name

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
11:10 am


Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground

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
11:26 am


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
07:16 am


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
09:59 am


Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground

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
02:25 pm


Velvet Underground
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’
06:47 am


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.
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.
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!
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
Half Japanese ‘Overjoyed’ mini-doc features members of Sonic Youth, REM, and Velvet Underground

It’d be tempting to dismiss this “mini-documentary” as a mere advertisement for a record release if the subject weren’t the incandescent and seminal lo-fi band Half Japanese.

Since their debut triple-album‘s 1980 release, the band, helmed by Mr. Jad Fair, have advanced an influential primitivist approach to rock music, which has made them one of those bands that see little marketplace success but are utterly beloved by other musicians. So beloved, in fact, that Fair’s bandmates have over the years included, among many others, noted producer and Velvet Monkeys/Gumball honcho Don Fleming, Shimmy-Disc boss and Bongwater multi-instrumentalist Kramer, and Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker.

So when it was announced that Half Japanese would be returning with a new album after a thirteen year layoff, it was surely an easy matter to find plenty of glowing testimonials from folks you can trust. (It’s worth noting that Fair has spent that downtime pursuing the visual arts, and if you can catch an exhibit, I recommend it, his work is great fun.) Overjoyed will be released by Joyful Noise on September 2, 2014, and members of REM, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, NRBQ, Teenage Fanclub and many, many others are eager to tell you all about why you should care. If what you see here whets your appetite for more, you really need to see the 1993 documentary The Band That Would Be King. I’ve said this before, many times, but as far as I’m concerned it bears infinite repeats: if that doc doesn’t make you want to start a band, you might have no soul.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Virtuosity in minutes: Half Japanese’s only guitar lesson you’ll ever need
‘Indie, punk, Motown, Brill Building and Velvets’: meet the street karaoke maestro of Los Angeles

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The Making of an Underground Film: Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol and a ‘topless’ Velvet Underground

There is simply too much pork for the fork in this wild CBS Evening News report on the then-new phenomenon of “underground films” from New Year’s Eve of 1965/66.

Seen here are Piero Heliczer filming the Velvet Underground, along with testimony from Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, a gorgeous young Edie Sedgwick, Al Aronowitz (the rock journo who introduced The Beatles to Dylan—and pot), Willard Van Dyke of the Museum of Modern Art, Chuck Wein, even shirtless and bodypainted Lou Reed and John Cale. Angus MacLise, who was still in the group when this was shot makes an appearance as well.

I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the first and so far at least, only time an excerpt from a Stan Brakhage film was ever shown on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Thank you Michael Simmons!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Check out these rare 1967 Velvet Underground covers from Dutch kids and U.S. soldiers in Vietnam!
08:17 am


Velvet Underground
Electrical Banana

It’s truly amazing to think that somehow a few eager rock ‘n’ rollers, living in the Netherlands in the ‘60s, getting whatever US and UK records they could get their hands on, wind up with the first Velvets LP, grouping it in with The Beatles, Stones, Monkees, and Lovin’ Spoonful albums that they got that day. And when it was time to go for broke and make their own first record, what did they do? That’s right, pick 2 songs off that weird banana record! Think about that thought process—they didn’t pick 2 songs from 2 different bands, or one original song with a cover song on the flip side like every other band, they covered two Velvets songs! I can’t wrap my head around this. These Dutch kids saw, in 1967, what the rest of the world took about 25 years to notice. The band is called The Riats. What could the name mean? Stair backwards? Misspelling of Riots? Rats? We probably will never know.

When I first found this years ago it just about melted my mind with questions that are still unanswered. The band made several 45’s and an LP, none anything much to speak of. This is pretty great though. Take away the Velvet Underground’s mystique, vibe, danger, art, even their sunglasses, and what do you have? This solid beat dancer! Organ-dominated, with a pounding production and a great guitar solo. Phonetic babbling a go-go, lord knows they had no idea what they were saying. But “Run Run Run” is really great. The B side, a somber, sorta clunky run through of “Sunday Morning,” could be anybody making any record in 1967, but my mind is SO etched with wondering what this meant to them, and what it means to me personally that it still screws me up a bit hearing it. I really wish there was an interview from ‘67 where these guys explain why they made this 45. It’s pretty odd for a band to basically do a tribute to a totally unknown band. Especially THAT band.

Enjoy the unbelievable: The Riats, “Run, Run, Run”/“Sunday Morning,” Omega Records, 1967 (Sadly I can’t find “Sunday Morning” anywhere on the internet).

Similar but even more incredible is the saga of The Electrical Banana.
In March of 1966 Dean Kohler, then of The Satellites, was drafted, and his rock ‘n’ roll dreams were put aside…for a few minutes! Dean’s amazing story, including his Vietnam sojourn, is way too much to go into here, but please check his website here, or check out his book Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldier: A Memoir. In a nutshell, he taught a buddy to play bass on the bottom four strings of a guitar supplied by their ship’s chaplain during a 28-day boat ride across the ocean. Along with roughly three thousand men were guitars, amps, and drums. Together with a drummer and another guitarist (the aspiring bass player was not quite ready), Dean’s thrown-together threesome played for “all aboard” on Christmas Day 1966.

Upon landing, Dean and the shy bassist formed The Electrical Banana. They were originally The Swinging Banana in homage to Portsmouth’s Swinging Machine (the most revered and feared band of Dean’s hometown), but after thinking about it for a quick minute they nixed the name for obvious reasons! With matching banana yellow uniforms, Vietnamese guitars and a bamboo stalk for a mic stand, the guys were in business, playing at servicemen’s clubs in the off time from their rigorous regular schedules as MP’s. Remarkably, and mostly due to their conceptual banana fever, someone got ahold of and gave Dean the first Velvet Underground LP (with the Warhol banana cover, of course) within a month of its release. The band promptly snagged “There She Goes Again” for their repertoire and even recorded it live in the middle of Vietnam about a month later, along with Dean’s fine jangler “She’s Gone” (also on the compilation LP mentioned below).

In the best sense of American musical spirit and ingenuity, the band threw down pallets, pitched a tent, dragged over a gas-powered generator, hooked everything up and voila! Not only was it recorded, but released (sort of) in the form of ten acetates with individual custom labels crediting “The Banana,” with a copy of the finished product going to all involved. Again, given the decades it took for the Velvet Underground to receive their due respect and rewards, it’s almost impossible to conceive of the true story I just told, that a band recorded a Velvets cover in the middle of a Vietnam jungle in a gas-powered recording studio straight out of Gilligan’s Island, around ONE MONTH after the Velvets debut release!! Talk about being ahead of their time—woah.

The two Electrical Banana tracks, along with music by The Satellites, The Swinging Machine, and many more can be heard on the compilation Aliens, Psychos and Wild Things (Rare & Unissued Virginia Garage 1964-1967) on the greatest record label in the world, Norton Records. Check out their website.
Big thanks to Simon Trent whose liner notes I used (liberally) to write the Electrical Banana story.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Andy Warhol shoots The Velvet Underground live (and in color) Boston, 1967
09:54 am


Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground

A 33-minute 16mm film shot by Andy Warhol of the Velvet Underground playing live at The Boston Tea Party nightclub in 1967 started making the rounds on the bootleg torrent tracker sites a few months ago, and now a pristine version has been uploaded to YouTube.

Although this is one of only two known films of the Velvet Underground with sync sound, before you go getting too excited, it’s pretty hard to watch (although still fascinating.) Sound cuts in and out, the camera work is herky jerky—a sure sign that it was indeed the somewhat technically inept Warhol who shot it—zooming in and out on the Velvets, the crowd, the film projections, strobe lights and mirrored disco balls.

Songs heard include bits of “I’m Waiting For The Man,” “Guess I’m Falling In Love,” “Run Run Run,” “Heroin,” “Walk It & Talk It,”  “I Heard Her Call My Name,” “Venus In Furs” and Sister Ray (the sole complete number).

Thank you Velvet Lover!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Lou Reed, Nico and John Cale do Velvet Underground mini-reunion on French TV, 1972
01:49 pm


Lou Reed
Velvet Underground
John Cale

In 1972, Velvet Underground alumni Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico reunited before the cameras of the POP2 TV program at Le Bataclan, a well-known—and very intimate—Paris 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’ Lou Reed biography Transformer, rock critic Richard Robinson videotaped these rehearsals, which took place in London.

Both the videotape and the audio from this show have been heavily bootlegged over the years. 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. It’s fairly easy to find. Now if only some of the outtakes from the Le Bataclan filming (if there were any) would slip out—they did “Black Angel’s Death Song” which I’d dearly love to see—not to mention what Richard Robinson might have (There is an audio only recording of the rehearsals attributed to Robinson’s tapes already making the rounds on bootleg torrent trackers.)

This is Reed coming off his first solo record (which had not even been released yet) and just a few months before he recorded “Walk on the Wild Side” with David Bowie and took on a totally different public—and we can presume, private—persona. This is “Long Island Lou” last seen just before Reed’s druggy bisexual alter-ego showed up and took his place. Cale does the lush “Ghost Story” from his then new 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.

I will direct you here for the full version, but I can’t embed the file.

One thing worth pointing out here is that during “Berlin” you can see Nico’s face as Reed sings a song which he told her was about her. She might even be hearing it for the first time.

Here’s a version (oddly in color, the only one on YouTube, the rest are all B&W) of Reed and Cale performing a languid, stoned and thoroughly unplugged “I’m Waiting For The Man”:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Pizza Underground: Macaulay Culkin’s pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band
05:27 pm


Velvet Underground
Macaulay Culkin

Good for him: After years of being accused of having a junk habit, Macaulay Culkin decided to tweak his reputation a little by covering the druggy anthems of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground… but with a twist: all of the lyrics have been retooled to be about pizza. Culkin contributes vocals, kazoo, and primitive Moe Tucker-style “percussion” pounded out on empty pizza boxes to The Pizza Underground.

So far, The Pizza Underground have only put out one song—a “demo” medley on Bandcamp featuring “Papa John Says,” “I’m Beginning to Eat the Slice,” “Pizza,” “I’m Waiting for Delivery Man,” “Cheese Days,” “Pizza Day,” “All the Pizza Parties,” “Pizza Gal,” “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice.”

The Pizza Underground have done just one gig. Their demo was recorded live at Macaulay Culkin’s house on November 11, 2013 . Sure, it’s essentially one joke milked to death, but hey, I laughed!


Thank you Adam Starr of Los Angeles, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
(Nearly) unheard Velvet Underground teaser from upcoming ‘White Light/White Heat’ box set
02:50 pm


Velvet Underground
Chris Stein

In anticipation of the upcoming box set of The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition—which drops December 10th—the kind folks at the Universal Music Group have given Dangerous Minds readers a taste of what is to come. They even let me choose the track, “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore,” and it’s a stunner.

The three-disc, 30-track set includes both the original stereo and mono mixes of the album, alternate versions and unreleased outtakes, including John Cale’s final studio sessions with the band. The set’s centerpiece, though, is the official release of their complete show at The Gymnasium in New York, recorded on April 30, 1967. The Gymnasium performance was bootlegged in 2008, but this was transferred from John Cale’s personal copy. The White Light/White Heat box set comes housed in a 56-page hardbound book and was developed in full cooperation with both Lou Reed and John Cale.

Reed would have been a 25-year-old in 1967 when he wrote “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore.” WHY this song was never officially recorded, well, is a mystery for the ages. If there was a an hour-long version of this song, I’d put it on a loop 24-7. Was its sole outing the Gymnasium gig? I’ve got shitloads of VU bootlegs and I’m unaware of it appearing on any other set list. Go figure!

The Gymnasium was located in the East 70s and was originally a Czechoslovakian health and social club. The gym equipment was actually left in the club. A teenaged Chris Stein, later of Blondie, played at the space with his own band and remembers seeing The Velvet Underground there:

It was pretty late at night by the time we got out of the subway in Manhattan and headed toward the Gymnasium. Walking down the block with our guitars we actually saw some people coming down the street and they said, “Oh, are you guys the band, because we’ve been waiting there all night and we couldn’t take it anymore, we left because they never showed up.” So we said, “Yeah, we’re the band.” We went inside and there was hardly anyone there. Somebody said Andy was supposed to be there, but he was off in the shadows with his entourage, we never saw him. We hung around for a little while and they played records, then we headed up for the stage. It was a big echoey place, we had absolutely no conception of playing a place like this whatsoever, but Maureen Tucker said we could use their equipment. So we plugged into their amps and the amps were all cranked up superloud…. The only song I remember doing was “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover.” We must have done a few more, but I remember sitting down after a while because the whole thing had gotten me pretty discouraged. Then somebody came over and said, “Oh Andy likes you, he thinks you’re great.” We must have played five or six songs then we just gave up. By that time the rest of The Velvets had arrived. After a while they started to play and they were like awesomely powerful. I had never expected to experience anything like that before…. I was really disappointed that they didn’t have Nico, because we thought she was the lead singer, but I distinctly remember the violin and their doing “Venus in Furs” because a couple of people in dark outfits got up and started doing a slow dance with a chain in between them…. There were maybe thirty people there. It was very late, but it was a memorable experience….

It seems likely that Stein might be describing the very show (no Nico here) contained on the box set. The complete and utter lack of applause might also be because of the small number of people Stein recalls being there. It was 45 years ago, so who knows?

When Reed died recently, Rolling Stone asked Thurston Moore for a memory of the rocker, and he referenced “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.”

I was at South by Southwest in 2008, playing at a Lou Reed appreciation concert. I’d just heard “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore,” which had just surfaced on a Velvet Underground bootleg. It was this powerful song I’d never heard before. Before we went on, I was talking to Lou and told him about it and he said, “How the hell do you know about that song?” I said, “It just surfaced on a bootleg on the Internet.” I said I thought it would be a good song to play since I just turned 50. And when I said that, he looked at me, half smiled and embraced me. It was wonderful and completely unexpected.

Below, have a listen to “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.” I’m totally in love with this song. This groove don’t quit. Turn it up loud enough so that it hits you like a fucking freight train.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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