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The Tumbleweed

The Velvet Underground: Rock and Roll’s Unique Influence

Writing the most influential songs.
Velvet Underground & Nico album
Andy Warhol
Velvet Underground & Nico album

The year is 1967. You’re at an underground record shop searching for something unique. Something instantly grabs your attention. A record with a big yellow banana sticker inviting you to peel it back revealing a red banana underneath. The back shows what band made this album, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The Velvet Underground was formed in 1964. The lead of the band, Lou Reed, was in a few garage bands and was, in his own words, a “poor man’s Carole King” writing songs for Pickwick Records. He then met the Welshman, John Cale. He came to the United States to study Classical music but became interested in rock music. They formed the short-lived band the Primitive. Only when they added Reed’s college classmate Sterling Morrison and fellow friend Angus MacLise did they become The Velvet Underground. They got their name through a paperback novel about a subculture movement that was going on in the 60’s.

After rehearsing and playing a small gig, MacLise proved difficult to work with. They went with Morrison’s friend’s sister Maureen “Mow” Tucker. She had a unique style where she often played gigs standing instead of sitting. She often did not use cymbals and used mallets instead of drumsticks.

In 1965, the band was introduced to Andy Warhol, a famed artist and performing artist. He became their manager and recommended they use German-born singer Nico on many tracks. He helped them get a record deal with Verve Records. During their stay with Warhol, they would tour with him for his multimedia roadshow Exploding Plastic Inevitable. They would play music for his films during the show.

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After putting on some shows, The Velvet Underground recorded their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Under persistence from Warhol, 3 songs were sung by Nico. This album has a very energetic and dreamy atmosphere. The first track, “Sunday Morning”, features Nico on lead vocals and a bell kit in a music box-type sound with drones going on in the back. This album would be overlooked by the public and divided by critics. But in the future was regarded as a classic and a major influence for Punk Rock and New Wave music.

By 1968 Velvet Underground broke it off with Warhol hiring a new manager, Steve Sesnick. They began recording White Light/White Heat. The album had a more gritty sound with a big rock sound. The title track has a blues rock sound with a banging bass and driven guitar. Tensions began rising in the band as they were being pulled into different directions by Reed and Cale. After a meeting with the band minus Cale, Cale left the band.

In 1969, Doug Yule would replace Cale. After meeting with Sesnick and Morrision he was told to handle Bass and Organ. The group still did shows and kept working. They recorded their self-titled album. This one has a unique track “After Hours” featuring Mow Tucker singing instead of her usual percussion. This album has a more gentle tone in contrast with the last album.

Throughout 1969 they performed live shows. By 1970 the group started recording “Loaded”. It gained that name after the record label wanted a record “loaded” with chart toppers and hits. This album would at first release not fully meet this expectation but with the most accessible of the band’s music being on this album, it became one of the most popular. This album has the hits “Sweet Jane” “Rock and Roll” and “New Age.” Even with this new album, Reed would leave the band.

The Velvet Underground fully disbanded in 1973 but would later come back together to perform in the 90’s. Unfortunately, Morrison passed away in 1995 due to Lymphoma. The band would come back and perform a handful of times until Reed passed away in 2013.

The Velvet Underground, although short-lived, went on to influence many different artists. Many artists cite them as a big influence and their music influenced modern music.


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About the Contributor
Jackson Jenkins
Jackson Jenkins, Newspaper Assistant Editor
This life of a musician is fulfilling, it is what makes him as a person, it is the reason he gets out of bed, music is the reason he feels content, music is the reason he is the person he is now. Jackson jenkins is a senior at Grantsville High School, he is a part of the school marching band as well as his own band with some of the school faculty. He is a very accomplished musician and has the instruments to prove it. Jackson shreds, his live for guitar and the sharp feeling that he gets when he plays it comes back to when he was a little kid playing at the school of rock, a school specifically for the most gifted musicians, he plays his heart to the floor every day, and he doesn't stop because he feels there would be somethings missing The goals that he has for his music are nothing short of challenging, Jackson has been shredding every day for the past 8 years for at least an hour. He says he gets caught up in the moment of playing the guitar so much that it is usually more than an hour. When he is playing music he says it is like he's speaking another language, he feels like he is creating something new and better than he has before every time he plays. The sense of accomplishment he feels every time he even puts a finger on his guitar that is always kept nice and clean for the next time he wants to make the music language that he is creating.  
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