A new documentary from director Todd Haynes has caught our attention here at PAE. “The Velvet Underground”, a two-hour film telling the story of the legendary rock band, was released just last month on October 15th. It is a masterpiece, having received rave reviews across the board.
The film does an incredible job of telling the story of The Velvet Underground while also providing insight into the 1960s experimental art scene. It begins by going into Lou Reed’s personal history before branching out to include band members John Cale, Moe Tucker, Sterling Morrison, and of course, Nico. The film goes into detail about John Cale’s roots in experimental music with his mentors La Monte Young and John Cage, and also explores the band’s relationship with Andy Warhol and their days spent in “The Factory”. Perhaps most importantly to us here at PAE is the film’s exploration of the band’s first trip to the West Coast in 1966. This section of the film is incredibly relevant to our current auction, in which we are offering a poster from this particular moment in time. The poster itself was shown in the film, which also dedicated time to discussing Bill Graham’s distaste for the music and art of the Velvet Underground.
The Velvet Underground couldn’t have been more different from the West Coast hippie scene that was just beginning to take off in 1966. Moe Tucker states in the film that the Velvet’s hated the “love peace crap”, followed by John Cale’s assertion that the hippie scene avoided “how important danger was”. The budding hippie scene of the West Coast was not ready for the Velvet Underground either, with their dark lyricism, experimental instrumentation, and frequent use of hard drugs. Thus, all hell broke loose when the band came to Los Angeles in May of 1966 for a two-week engagement at The Trip on the Sunset Strip with Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable show. We discuss this further in our blog post dated 5/7/21.
“The Velvet Underground” beautifully lays out why the band is one of the most important and unique groups in the history of rock and roll. Additionally, it gives viewers great insight into the art of the 1960s outside of the California counterculture movement that we tend to focus on here at PAE. As lovers of music, pop culture, and everything 1960s, we feel as though this documentary is important to the work we do (though we do take issue with Mary Woronov describing Frank Zappa and The Mothers as “hippies”). We highly recommend giving it a watch!