The immersive Velvet Underground Experience shows how this epic band pushed the boundaries
The Velvet Underground, as befits a band so tightly associated with Andy Warhol, is legendary primarily for the vast gulf between their immeasurably large impact on culture and their actual initial run of album sales. (Estimates suggest their first record only sold between 30,000 and 60,000 copies in its first two years.) Their first record came out over 50 years ago, and still somehow feels alive and relevant today in a way that almost none of their contemporaries do.
Now the band is getting honored by a major museum exhibit, The Velvet Underground Experience, right in the heart of New York City, the city whose avant garde art scene, with Andy Warhol as its high priest, shaped the band so profoundly.
Co-curator Christian Fevret sat down with SalonTV host Amanda Marcotte on “Salon Talks” to discuss how the Velvet Underground, with its songs about sadomasochism and heroin use, somehow managed to be so out of step with the general tone of 1960s rock, and yet still somehow much more impactful than the flower power generation’s music in the long run.
The Velvet Underground still doesn’t get played on classic rock radio, but as Fevret explains, the band’s utter rejection of conformity — even to a ‘60s hippie aesthetic — offered the band’s fans, who grew exponentially in number in the following decades, a genuine sense of freedom of expression and opportunity. They opened the door to punk, New Wave, and continue to inspire new artists to test boundaries still, even five decades after the infamous “banana album” debuted.
Watch the interview above to hear more about the exhibition in New York and why Fevret says the Velvet Underground’s legacy is long lasting.
Image of The Velvet Underground and Nico. Photo is courtesy of Cornell University, Division of Rare Manuscript Collections.
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