Category Archives: Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground & Nico–The Obsession.

I have previously discussed my collection of Velvet Underground & Nico albums and this time I thought I’d celebrate the fact that this album was officially released 50 years and two months ago.

This historic album was, of course, initially recorded as a ten-track acetate in Norman Dolph’s Scepter Studios in New York on 25th April 1966. Two acetates were pressed and one was given to Andy Warhol offered it to Columbia Records, Atlantic Records and Elektra who all turned it down. Warhol then took the band to Los Angeles and with Ted Wilson re-recorded most of the songs and Verve Records agreed to release it. Warhol’s acetate disappeared but the other copy surfaced in a New York street sale in 2006 and was bought by record collector Warren Hill for 75 cents. Hill put the record up for auction on eBay, and eventually sold it for $25,200. It was resold in 2014.

A bootleg of the acetate recording called “Unripened” appeared in 2007, pressed first on green and later on black vinyl with a pastiche of Warhol’s original cover for the Velvet’s album. The green banana was not peelable and instead of “Peel slowly and see” beside the banana’s neck this version said “Unripened listen slowly and hear.”

Unripened_LP-fr
The cover of the 2007 bootleg first release of the Norman Dolph acetate recording of The Velvet Underground’s first album

The album received its first official release on CD together with the 45th Anniversary 6 CD set in 2012 and a limited edition of 5000 numbered copies was released on vinyl for Record Store Day that April.

Scepter Acetate
The 2012 vinyl release of The Velvet Underground’s “Scepter Studios” acetate.

There was a later unnumbered vinyl release. There is yet another version released in 2014 in a different cover.

Norman Dolph-front
The latest bootleg version of The Velvet Underground & Nico’s Norman Dolph acetate superimposed the classic banana image over a photo from the 1966 film of the Velvets in concert.

The historic value of the acetate recording is indisputable, but musically it is inferior to the re-recorded full album. In its first year “The Velvet Underground & Nico” appeared in several versions. There were at least two promotional copies, both mono, released in the original “torso” covers. One with a yellow label and the other with a white label. The identical slick could be used for mono or stereo copies,– the mono slick was pasted with the stem of the banana almost at the cover’s top edge.

Both mono and stereo versions were originally released with the “torso” cover, which was soon withdrawn when Eric Emerson demanded payment to allow his picture to be used on the cover. Verve recalled many albums and stuck a large black sticker over the offending “torso” photograph. Later printings replaced the “torso” cover with an  version with Emerson’s picture airbrushed out. These were still gatefold covers.

The original U.K. release was housed in a single cover with the an unpeelable banana. In Germany an unusual reissue was produced in 1976. This cover is unique; coloured blue and with an image of the peeled banana.

VU&N_Rotation_fr
The 1976 German reissue with banana.

The first CD version of the album appeared in 1986. There was a limited edition of 3000 copies German release in a slipcase with a peelable banana that was hand numbered the following year.

.In 1991 a further reissue appeared in the U.S.A. and Australia that had a single cover and the album’s title on the front cover as shown on the 1986 CD. Mobile Fidelity released a gold CD version of the album in 1997.

MFSL reissue CD
The cover design of the MFSL gold CD.

There have been many reissues since the late nineteen eighties both on CD and since 2000 on vinyl. I mentioned the picture disc varieties in my previous post. The latest vinyl reissues have been pressed on 180 g virgin vinyl and have restored the original cover including a peelable banana and a restored “torso” rear cover released as a 45th anniversary issue in 2012. And there have been numerous reissues pressed on coloured vinyl. I have seen yellow and red vinyl issues as well as Newbury Comics limited (1000 copies) pressed on yellow/black split vinyl which also has a peelable banana and “torso” rear cover.

Newbury VU&N
The Newbury Comics version of the Velvet Underground & Nico album.

There are at least three complete cover albums of Velvet Underground & Nico album. The first appeared in 1990 in Italy where a series of punk bands played the songs from the Velvet Underground & Nico album.

Tribute to Andy warhol
The cover of the Tribute to Andy Warhol alum on the Crazy Mannequin Record label.The cover came in several colour variations.

The second cover album was another various artists compilation of the VU & Nico album tracks recorded on the Castle Face Record label in 2012. The banana on the cover was by David Shrigley, who drew a portrait of Andy Warhol on the back cover.

A third cover album called “The Velvet Underground & Nico and Ben Benderbe” was recorded by Bud Benderbe and released as a limited edition LP with a very strange large sliced banana sticker.

Bud Benderbe-fr
Bud Benderbe’s cover album.

There are also numerous records that use variations on Warhol’s banana image that have no other relationship to the Velvet’s music. These include the split single by Eat All You Can and Hickey called “Banana Split”.
Banana Split-fr

Another is a rare jazz LP by the Instant Composers Pool Group, recorded in Holland in 1970.Jazz Banana.jpg

The classical quartet’s, the Fauré Quartet, first recording “Popsongs”, released on the Deutsche Grammophon label had an apple sticker on the cover which, when peeled revealed a raspberry.
Faure-Popsongs-fr

A very recent variation on the design is a 2017 release by John Nemeth called “Feelin’ Freaky”. On this cover, though, the banana was replaced by a red gherkin.
Feelin-Freaky-Cover

 

Often called the album that launched a thousand bands, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” has proved itself to be one of rock music’s most influential albums and the number of reissues on both CD and vinyl confirm its importance. Andy Warhol’s cover art was a major work of pop art and has had almost as great an influence on cover design as the music has had on the development of rock music.

Advertisements

More Andy Warhol record and CD covers

The Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, north north west of Detroit, is currently exhibiting called “Warhol on Vinyl – The Record Covers 1949-1987”. This is the first comprehensive exhibition of Andy Warhol’s record cover art since the Montreal exhibition “Warhol Live!” in 2008. Of course, many record covers with art by Andy Warhol have been unearthed since that exhibition thus making the Cranbrook show essential viewing for anyone interested in this aspect of Warhol’s oevre. Included in the Cranbrook exhibition are such recently discovered covers as Lew White’s “Melodic Magic” EP on the Camden label.

Lew White's EP "Melodic Magic".
Lew White’s EP “Melodic Magic”.

 Others include two LP covers on the RCA Victor Bluebird label; Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and “Porgy & Bess / Grieg’s Symphonic Dances which join the Byron Janis recording of “Rhapsody in Blue” as being acknowledged Warhol covers.

Tchaikovky's Violin Concerto.
Tchaikovky’s Violin Concerto.
Cover of the "Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances" album.
Cover of the “Porgy & Bess / Symphonic Dances” album.

A number of bootleg albums that use Warhol’s art were also included including three Velvet Underground boots: “Screen Test: Falling in Love with the Falling Spikes”, “NYC” and “Orange Disaster”, The Rolling Stones’ “Live in Laxington”, Mick Jagger’s “Suntory D R Y Beer”.

The search for more records and CDs with Warhol’s art continues. I recently added a couple more to my collection. I had bought the re-issue version of the CRI CD coupling Matias Pickjer’s “Keys to the City” with Marc Blitzstein’s “Piano Concerto” with a smaller image of Warhol’s “Brooklyn Bridge” print:

The re-issue cover for the Picker-Blitzstein CD.
The re-issue cover for the Picker-Blitzstein CD.

 

The original cover image for the CD on the CRI label.
The original cover image for the CD on the CRI label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I also found an unusual CD of a classical concert including Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” and “Prague Symphony (No. 38)” performed by the NHK Orchestra on one disc and Mahler’s “Symphony No. 5″ on the second, released by an organisation called NTT Data. The cover had an intriguing Warhol drawing on the front and on each CD that I could not resist. When I showed photographs to members of The Warhol Cover Collectors Club they could identify the drawing as one from a series that Warhol did in a book for ‘Play Book of You S. Bruce from 2:30-4:00”. It was a very special portfolio because only 1 copy was made. Subject of all portraits is Stephen Bruce, the owner of the Serendipity restaurant in New York where Warhol used to hang out a lot in the Fifties. He must have had a crush on Bruce, because he made this drawings supposedly in one night, in ballpoint pen and offered Bruce the portfolio. The portfolio was sold at Sotheby’s in 2010 for £181.250 [Thanks to Guy Minnebach for this information].  There is book of the drawings as well.

NTT-Data "Concert of Concerts, Opus 2" CD cover.
NTT-Data “Concert of Concerts, Opus 2” CD cover.

 

Four more Warhol covers for my collection

It feels like Christmas when four additional Andy Warhol covers can be added to my collection. Two are releases I had not been aware of until very recently. The four covers are:

1. Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto played by Erica Morini and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Desiré Defauw.

Image

2. The Joe Newman Octet – I’m Still Swinging, double gatefold EP – 45 EPB-1198.

Image

3. Velvet Underground – Paris 1990 – Bootleg “promotional” LP.

Image

VU_Paris1990_bk

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Falling Spikes (Velvet Underground) – Screen Test: Falling in Love With the Falling Spikes (1987 re-issue):

VU_Red-ScreenTest_600

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Byron Janis recording of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” coupled with Grofé’s “Grand Canyon Suite” on the RCA Victor Bluebird label has an illustration of a piano and orchestra generally accepted as being by Andy Warhol. This recoeding was released both as a 12″ LP and a three 7″ EP box. Its sister release, the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by Erica Morini and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Desiré Defauw, on the same label has an illustration of a double base done in the same style and probably by Andy Warhol. I have a copy of the 12″ LP, generously given me by Frank Edwards. Until recently, I had not been aware of a three EP box similar to the Byron Janis recording, then one came up on Ebay and found its way into my collection.

2. The Joe Newman Octet’s “I’m Still Swinging” has been released as a 12-tract LP and an 8-track double EP and single EPs. I have one of the single EPs and recently acquired the German pressing of the single EP. Now I succeeded in finding the double EP version.

3. A short while ago, Guy Minnebach told members of the Warhol Cover Collectors Club about a Velvet Underground bootleg of a live show recorded in Paris on 11th June 1990, cleverly entitled “Paris 1990”. I was lucky to find a mint copy from a seller in Texas. This cover has a reproduction of an early Warhol flower on the front cover and a portrait of Warhol on the reverse. The images fluoresce in the dark! So cool!

4. Frank Edwards discovered the re-issue version of the bootleg album by the Falling Spikes, later to metamorphose into The Velvet Underground. The re-issue  “Screen Test: Falling in Love With the Falling Spikes” LP has the same detail from Warhol’s “Flowers” painting as the original 1985 release, but has a red card cover and includes two postcards. I found this one on Discogs and made a good deal with the seller. So now I have all three versions; one with the black and white cover, one with the blue flower and now even the red cover.

It seems a stranghe coincidence that I should receive the two Velvet Underground albums just days after founder member, Lou Reed, died. Anyway, four interesting and unusual additions to my collection.