Thursday, May 5, 2016

Auditions Tomorrow at 9 O'clock

For many, the Velvet Underground's association with Andy Warhol in 1965 is where the story begins, as if Warhol's coalition with the band was the proto-punk equivalent of Don Kirschner and the Monkees. Though the stories obviously intermingle, the Velvets were the Velvets with or without Andy's heavy-handedness. In April 1965 Warhol said, "We're sponsoring a new band.  It’s called the Velvet Underground. And we’re a, I'm a, since I don’t really believe in painting anymore, I thought it would be a nice way to combine, and we have a chance to combine, music and art and films all together and we're sort of working on that. And, um, the whole thing is being auditioned tomorrow at nine o'clock. And if it works out, it might be very glamorous." Auditioned. Nonetheless, the Velvet Underground was already established with John Cale and Lou Reed running the show; the Exploding Plastic Inevitable was but a small portion of what made the Velvet Underground the most important American band of the 60s. Here are some of the most famous and/or interesting of their shows:

Summit High School Auditorium, Summit, New Jersey, December 11, 1965: The first concert at which they were actually billed as the Velvet Underground and the first at which they were paid. Opening for the Myddle Class (who featured future Carole King husband/collaborator Charles Larkey on bass and future Steely Dan singer Dave Palmer), they played three songs—"There She Goes Again," "Venus in Furs," and "Heroin"—to an unappreciative audience of adolescents. "The band just emptied that auditorium," said Sterling Morrison's wife, Martha. 

CafĂ© Bizarre, Greenwich Village, December 1965:  Told they'd be fired if they played the room-clearing "The Black Angel's Death Song,” the Velvets led off their next set with it. They got fired for their mischievousness, but not before meeting Andy Warhol.

Delmonico Hotel, New York, Annual Dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry, January 13, 1966: "It was ridiculous, outrageous, painful," said Dr. Harry Weinstock in the New York Times.

Michigan State Fair Coliseum, Detroit, November 20, 1966: As part of "the world's first mod wedding happening," the Velvets were to "play the traditional wedding songs as sung by Nico. Superstar Gerard Malanga will then dance as the Velvet Underground improvises a 'happening' comprised of instrumental sound effects and psychedelic music." – The Fifth Estate (an underground magazine similar in content to the Los Angeles Free Press (the FREEP).

Philip Johnson's Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut, June 3, 1967: An benefit concert for choreographer Merce Cunningham.

Lincoln Center, New York, November 13, 1967: A fundraising benefit for public television station Channel 13 (WNET) at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, and one of their only three known gigs in New York between spring 1967 and summer 1970. Interestingly, the band was billed as “Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground.”

Beverly Hills High School, Late October-November 1968: Yep, the most famous of American high schools. Though the exact date can’t be stated, there is proof: a photo in the Beverly Hills High School 1968-69 yearbook of the band sitting amiably onstage with what look like various school officials and students. Can’t make this shit up.

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