Andy Warhol // What is it about “The Velvet Underground & Nico” Album?

Andy Warhol // What is it about “The Velvet Underground & Nico” Album?

By NOISYHYPE TEAM, March 29, 2020

It’s probably fair to say that The Velvet Underground and Nico album has influenced the outlook and tone of more bands than any other album. And the remarkable thing is, it still sounds as fresh, innovative and challenging as it did in its debut year, 1967. 

However, some argue that it was producer Andy Warhol’s creative input that really made the album shine and gave it it’s “gold” status that many musicians and fans easily identify with even today. 

What truly sets apart The Velvet Underground and Nico Album?

 

It was the year 1966 – a time when many well-known studios in London, including Abbey Road where the Beatles recorded a number of their hits, had technicians roaming around in white lab coats. Even the less formal and lesser known ones had engineering graduates running the consoles and mixing equipment.  It was a time when music studios were more about science rather than the art itself. 

Artists or bands who had the nerve to make technical suggestions were either met with hostility, ridicule and bemusement, or saw their contracts ending prematurely. 

The Velvets were a young, enthusiastic and energetic band, full of talent, vigour and artistic genius. However, they were under constant criticism from the studios, so one can imagine how overwhelming it must have been to conform to these standards in order to gain acceptance.

The majority of bands from that era learned to compromise in a number of ways with their record labels – many agreed to have their wholesale image or persona revamped, while others agreed to change everything from their wardrobe to musical style, and even the way they walked or talked. There were even bands who created drastically edited versions of their songs before going on air or getting rid of certain tracks entirely just to keep the studio heads happy and retain their contract. 

But with the Velvets having Andy Warhol in their corner, such threats were minimised to a great degree.

The Velvet Underground after Andy

 

It is widely believed that the man who brought the Velvets and Andy together was Paul Morrisey, who had already witnessed the Velvets’ first gig at Café Bizarre – he identified with them immediately. He walked up to the band and outright told them that Warhol should be their band manager. By the time Warhol saw the Velvets perform, he was taken aback almost immediately, hypnotized by their performance. 

With Warhol on board as the Velvets’ manager, the first thing Morrisey decided to do was the replace the lead singer Lou Reed, whom he often felt was an “uncomfortable performer”, who never quite felt at home on stage. 

He suggested that Nico be made the lead singer – a veteran artist herself, having recorded an album in London at the time. Even though Nico did encounter a fair amount of friction at first trying to get accepted in the band, her importance to the band’s early success should not be overlooked. Her icy beauty and winter-day voice made the band skyrocket to fame. 

More than 50 years after the album’s release, it still sounds stunningly fresh and original, and has proven its mettle in terms of being a blueprint for everything from highbrow avant-garde to lo-fi punk rock and a lot in between.