Skip to main content

It was 1965 when Paul Morrisey stumbled upon a group of musicians that impressed him. Paul Morrisey was one of Andy Warhol filmmaking associates. The meeting that was about to produce one of the most celebrated albums of all time, took place at New York’s Café Bizarre, located on the city’s MacDougal Street. The new discovery of Morrisey was about to become the new project of Andy Warhol.

The band has been active since 1964 and had already participated in some gigs and concerts. However, they had been active only in New York. Their sound was dark, edgy and enigmatic. Their songs talked about street life, drugs and prostitution. When Paul Morrisey called Warhol, they sounded a perfect fit for his studio, The Factory.

Soon after, Warhol hired the band. He provided them with a space for rehearsals, bought them new equipment and commented on their lyrics and music. It didn’t take long before he officially becomes their manager. In exchange, he asked them for 25% of all the band’s earnings and the band agreed. Additionally, Warhol really insisted that the band should find a new lead singer. What he had in mind was another recent discovery of his.

Nico was a beautiful actress and singer. She was born in Germany and similarly to the band, she had recently found her way inside The Factory. In the beginning, the band did not welcome her addition, but they were under contract with Andy Warhol which left them no choice, but work with the young actress.

In 1966, under the management of Warhol, the newly formed Velvet Underground and Nico
made their debut at the opening of Warhol’s nightclub experiment, “Up”, as part of a project
Warhol called The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The performance of Velvet Underground was part of a bigger show. Dancers and artists performed on stage and Andy Warhol screened some of his movies. To New Wave enthusiasts the event was a grand example of “Happenings” and “Performance Arts“. Immediately after their first big event, the band went on a cross-country tour to present their songs.

Velvet Underground and Nico performing live

In 1966, the group made their first trip to a recording studio in order to produce their first album. They agreed that Nico will sing three songs – I’ll be your Mirror, Femme Fatale and All Tomorrow’s Parties. Though, Andy Warhol didn’t contribute on the production of the album, he had a lot to do with it’s fame and distribution. His iconic painting of a banana on a white background, together with his signature, became one of the most iconic album covers in history. In the original, first edition of the LP, the banana could be actually peeled and reveal a pinkish version of the fruit under it.

Although John Cale was educated in classical music, he was responsible for the dark sound of the songs. His arrangements influenced rock an avant-garde musicians to come. The I’ll be Your Mirror track is the only one that is different from the mood that the album suggests overall. Yet, all the tracks from the album became classics for rock music.

Today, decades after it’s release, The Velvet Underground and Nico album is considered a checkpoint in music history. It influenced many musicians and bands which we consider iconic. Some examples are, David Bowie, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols among others.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted the album into it’s rankings for it’s originality and controversial topics it discussed.

Leave a Reply