What made the Velvet-Warhol connection special

1966 American rock music reached it`s definite breakthrough. Rock`n`roll went beyond rock music. New audiences which were concerned about politics and people which used different kinds of chemicals saw a new attitude going on in the music branch. Their goal was pushing the limits in music and to make it to something bigger. It was in 1966 you got the first big light shows both among the hippies in Californian music and in the more aggressive experimental avant-garde communities in New York.

Decadence is perhaps the word that has been synonymous with The Velvet Underground since their beginning as the main attraction in Andy Warhol`s sixties road show, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Just a look at the blurbs from their reviews shows how fast they were typecast. The Velvets a marriage between Bob Dylan and the Marquise de Sade was more than typical. There were more than a few references to post-Weimar Berlin with Nico filling in as Der Blau Engel. The Velvets had a sinister stage presence: they all wore shades, because of the strobe lights and they wore black leather outfits. But it had had little to do with the band The Velvets would ultimately evolve into. And despite or because of the initial notoriety, it did them great harm at that time.

They never lost the tag of Andy Warhol`s band. Still, Lou Reed has only praise for his former patron (even though it has been recent habit with him to savage every one in sight). Warhol`s use of banal, consumer imagery in his work, the acting out and role switching of his stable of performers, his nihilistic, cool voyeurism- all these seeped into Lou`s method, or confirmed tendencies already there.

If we take a look at what happened in the middle of the Sixties we can see that especially the Greenwich Village folkies and the bands from San Francisco were central in the hippie movement in the mid sixties. Greenwich Village was very central in politics and the San Francisco bands were more the glamorous picture of what a hippie should look like. The Velvet Underground and the people around Warhol`s factory were the real freaks at that time. The Hippies could travel home after the happenings to their trivial life, but The Velvets and the Factory people had no places to go to. They had opened their act to the gutter and they instead evolved more into hostile street persons. They evolved into what we can call proto punk types. This is the reason why I put so much weight on Reed`s background: to show that his type of persons was a different from the Hippies.