Anthony DeCurtis' revealing account of the musician who became godfather of rock's underground. The Velvet Underground become The Factory's house band.
Lou Reed met avant-garde musician John Cale in New York City in 1965; before long they were joined by guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Mo Tucker, and the Velvet Underground was born. The combination of Reed's experimental approach to sound with Reed's tough, literate lyrics openly referencing drugs, sex and fetishism, created rock music that was groundbreaking and uncompromising. When Andy Warhol heard them he agreed to manage them, and the Velvets took on the role of house band at The Factory, Warhol's studio. Warhol insisted on bringing in German actress and model Nico to give the band a kind of glamour, and their first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, came out in 1967. Although it wasn't a critical success, the album had a significant influence on other musicians, both in the US and the UK, who recognised and were inspired by the music's underground experimentation. As Reed's desire for control over the band grew, he first of all engineered Nico's departure, and not long after that a split with Warhol. Finally, after the release of a second album, White Light/White Heat, in January 1968, he threw down an ultimatum: either Cale should go or he would. Reluctantly, Tucker and Morrison agreed and John Cale left the band.
Read by Demetri Goritsas
Abridged and produced by Sara Davies.