It used to pain me to think that the only footage in existence of the Velvet Underground performing was silent. Think about it: Have you ever seen any sync-sound film of the Velvets in any of the various documentaries made about them, Lou Reed, Nico, John Cale or Andy Warhol for that matter? I didn’t think so, but thanks to the rather enterprising employee of either the Museum of Modern Art or else the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh who liberated Symphony in Sound you can now see the Velvets in action and actually hear them too! That’s the good part.
The bad part is that this film, made to be screened behind the band onstage during The Exploding Plastic Inevitable “happenings” is pretty boring. It goes on for a LONG time with not much happening besides a drony primitive jam and a frenetic camera zooming in and out. Nico is there (with her young son Ari) but she’s not singing, just hitting a tambourine. Lou doesn’t sing either. At one point the camera droops on its tripod and no one readjusts it for a while. So it’s boring, most Warhol films were boring—Warhol himself always said his movies were better discussed than actually seen—but it is the freaking Velvet Underground playing live on camera for what is probably the ONLY time during their original incarnation, so it’s worth looking at for that reason alone. If you can get over how dull it is, it’s actually pretty cool. There are several versions of this online, this one, from Google Video is merely the longest. I don’t know if this is the whole thing but in the later moments of the bootleg DVD I have, it gets better when the cops show up due to a noise complaint and Warhol has to deal with them himself.