Mark your calendars with a new holiday: the musings of the Velvet Underground—in all their raw glory—will soon be available for listening.
The Andy Warhol Museum has discovered and digitized rare master tapes from the band’s epoch-defining 1967 debut album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” from Verve Records.
The monophonic reel-to-reel ¼” tapes contain alternative versions and mixes of the nine initial songs that formed the foundation of the 1967 release.
“You’re hearing the album as the band originally intended,” Matt Gray, manager of archives at the Warhol said in a statement. “The track listing alone is a retelling of the album. The quality of sound is remarkable; it gives you a new perspective.”
In 1965, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, fronted by Lou Reed, formed one of the most iconic artistic collaborations of the 20th century. Warhol discovered the avant-garde rockers and, acting as the band’s manager, sculpted them into a must-catch act.
“The pop idea, after all, was that anybody could do anything, so naturally we were all trying to do it all,” Warhol wrote in his 1980 memoir POPism: The Warhol Sixties. “Nobody wanted to stay in one category; we all wanted to branch out into every creative thing we could — that’s why when we met The Velvet Underground at the end of ’65, we were all for getting into the music scene, too.”
Warhol added the singer Nico to the group and made them the house band of his art star-studded Factory, where they featured heavily in his multimedia production the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. In 1966, Warhol secured studio time for the group to record their first album at Scepter Studios. At the time, Warhol was a relatively hands-off producer, and their first professional recording session was an experimental triumph with a sonic grit that was softened in the later analog copy. The band signed on with MGM/Verve Records in 1966 and the Scepter master tapes were re-mixed and re-recorded as The Velvet Underground & Nico—with Warhol’s peelable banana on the cover.
The Velvet Underground, for all their immense influence on American pop culture, was a short-lived entity: in a contentious decision, Reed fired Warhol as manager in 1967 and from there, the band rapidly unraveled. The original master tapes were given to Warhol after their official debut and have remained unheard until now.
The recording will make its public debut in a new exhibition at The Warhol in 2023.