Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker, and Doug Yule, members of the pioneering New York City art band The Velvet Underground, will be reuniting for a public appearance at the New York Public Library on December 8. The influential musicians will not be joining together for yet another band reformulation, but they will be key speakers in a panel discussion with rock journalist David Fricke to discuss their music and influence in the budding art scene that germinated from New York during the sixties.
The band forum, a part of the “LIVE from the NYPL” series, is a response to growing interest in the group by way of the release of the new book, The Velvet Underground: New York Art. The book contains a rare collection of handwritten music and lyrics by Reed, unseen performance photographs, underground press clippings, and posters and cover art by Andy Warhol, the group’s manager/producer during their early years.
Started as an experimental project on the tail end of the “beat” era, The Velvet Underground gained notoriety among artisans of the counterculture generation when they were chosen to be the “house-band” of Andy Warhol’s Factory and accompanied the pop-artist on his famed Exploding Plastic Inevitable performances. The Underground is probably best known for their iconic debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico, which featured vocals by the Warhol-backed, German singer, Nico. The album is readily identified by the classic image of a silk-screened banana, branded as an image reminiscent of traditional work by Warhol.
When other revolutionary artists of their generation were railroaded into producing sounds that were easily accessible to a pop-music audience, Warhol, acting as producer, allowed the group to remain highly experimental and explore their brooding pessimism with everyday life. Songs stemmed from nihilistic viewpoints on social issues and typically involved scenes of reality that the members saw on the streets of New York. Drug use and interpretations of sexual “morality,” two key issues of the 60s counterculture, tended to be topics that the band addressed with unabashed honesty and scathing social awareness.