The Velvet Underground (2021) Movie Script

I've Got A Secret, presented by Winston.
America's best-selling,
best-tasting filtered cigarette.
Winston tastes good
like a cigarette should.
Winston tastes good
Like a cigarette should
Yes, Winston filtered cigarettes
bring you America's number one
panel show, I've Got A Secret.
Now, panel, for reasons
which will become obvious,
this gentleman on my left
will be known as Mr. X.
I will tell you this, however,
that he is from Wales.
He is a Welshman,
and, also, he is a musician.
We'll be back in just 20 seconds.
How much heroin
do you buy then each day?
Twenty-nine grams.
Four or five dollars--
Levittown, USA.
The carefully planned commu--
From Dallas, Texas, the flash
apparently official, President Kennedy--
One, two, three.
This is John Cale, a composer-musician
who last week performed in a concert
to end all concerts.
What was really unusual
about this particular concert?
Well, the performance took 18 hours.
Can any of you guess
what Mr. Schenzer's secret then is?
He was the only one who lasted
in the audience for the full 18 hours.
Why is he doing this?
How come it took
18 hours and 40 minutes to play this?
Well, there's an instruction
by the composer Erik Satie here,
which says that this piece of music here
must be repeated 840 times.
What would move a man
to say you must play it 840 times to--
-for it to be complete?
-I have no idea.
Wind blow
Wind blow
Wind blow
Wind blow
"I feel as if I were
in a motion picture theater.
The long arm of light
crossing the darkness and spinning.
My eyes fixed on the screen.
The shots themselves
are full of dots and rays.
I am anonymous and have forgotten myself.
It is always so
when one goes to the movies.
It is, as they say, a drug."
In a dream that the wind brings to me
We moved out
to Long Island when I was four.
Lou would've been nine.
We lived in a suburb, Freeport.
Coming from Brooklyn
to this isolated suburban community,
that was a hard, hard transition for him.
In my arms
Wind, wind
My mom was a homemaker.
My father wanted to be a novelist,
an author.
My grandmother said,
"No, you're gonna be an accountant."
So he became an accountant.
If you were looking
for central casting
to cast a 1950s family
where father knows best,
I don't think he had much to do
with his father. His father worked.
He was not the kinda guy
that you'd go out and toss a ball with.
I don't know
what my father's aspirations for Lou were.
Maybe he thought
he would take over the business.
My father's aspirations for me
were no doubt
that I should make very good chicken soup.
There wasn't a lot of, you know, "Let's go
to the circus. Let's go to the muse--"
There was none of that.
I know she is gone
But my love
Early music training was classical piano.
I first picked up a guitar probably
10 or 11, and I took one lesson.
I think I had brought in
"Blue Suede Shoes"
and said, "Teach me how to play this."
That's not really, I think,
what they were there for.
So that was the end of my music lesson,
so I learned guitar from the--
playing along with records.
Doo-wop. The Paragons, the Jesters,
the Diablos.
And rockabilly.
And Lou always said to me
that he wanted to ultimately
become a rock star very early on.
This was in high school.
When I was 14, I made my first record,
"Leave Her for Me."
The final disappointment for me
was the night Murray the K
was supposed to play it on the radio,
and he was sick.
Paul Sherman played it instead,
and I was absolutely devastated.
We were all sitting by the radio.
And we got a royalty check for $2.79,
which in fact turned out to be a lot more
than I made with the Velvet Underground.
Take all the blossoms
There was a place called the Hayloft,
and he used to go there alone to play.
Leave me my baby
It was known to be a gay nightclub.
I once asked him why he wanted
to play in gay nightclubs.
And he said
it's just a cool group of people.
Please leave her for me
Leave my baby
The band booked gigs in the city.
He was still in high school.
And I think that certainly that set
the ground for difficulties in my home.
We were living in my grandmother's house.
And my grandmother
was very thoroughly nationalistic.
One thing she didn't like was that
my mother had married an Englishman
and didn't speak Welsh.
Not only did she marry an Englishman,
she married a coal miner,
which she spent years
pushing all the other kids out of.
She made sure that all her boys
and my mother all went into education.
When they got married and my father
moved into the house,
my grandmother banned the use
of English in the house.
Until I learned English in school
at seven,
I couldn't communicate with my father.
The antipathy
that I got from my grandmother
was really some form of hatred.
A little bit grim.
My mother taught me piano
for a little while
until I got to a certain point,
and then she turned me over
to somebody else.
Yeah, she held it together for me.
I mean, I'm talking about, like,
maybe at six or seven years of age.
The life of the imagination
was the life of the radio.
And by that time, I'd figured out the way
that I really could use the radio
was to tune into all
the foreign broadcasts.
Get Suisse Romande and Radio Moscow.
When I got to grammar school, they had
an orchestra, and I wanted to play.
So I went looking for a violin,
and they didn't have any violins.
But they had a viola, so I got the viola.
They had Bach pieces,
cello pieces for viola.
Which was really good.
You got all your chops going.
But then there was
the Paganini Caprices
that I sort of stunned my teacher
saying that I was gonna learn
the Paganini Caprices.
My mother, she had an operation
on her breasts.
She disappears and goes to
this isolation hospital
which had 25-foot walls outside.
And my father would take me up
and hold me up.
She vanished.
Things started going off the rails.
I was on my own.
My father kept going to work.
I mean, I just felt very isolated.
I couldn't talk to my father about
any of the things that were going on.
I couldn't talk to my mother
about what was going on.
So I got taken advantage of,
and I didn't know what to do about it.
I had this piece that I remembered
the opening of the piece,
but I didn't remember the ending of it.
So I had to improvise my way
through the ending of it.
I mean, I did a pretty good job
of ending the piece.
I mean, of really carving an arc for it,
and I got out of it.
When I came out of that room,
at first I was really scared.
And I didn't know what the hell was
gonna happen, but then it happened.
That moment of it happening,
that was what made a difference
really early on
about how to work your way
out of a problem.
Being afraid of what's about to happen
is not a problem.
It was the birth of improvisation.
Slowly, things started focusing on
what I was planning on doing.
And I think I'd really made
a practical decision.
I thought, "I want to be a conductor."
In addition, it was really clear
that I had to get out of the valleys.
You know, there's nothing here.
I was desperate to get out of that place.
But if it wasn't for that one time
when I got scared out of my wits
and had to perform and finish
something off elegantly.
That really stood me in good stead.
You killed your European son
You spit on those under 21
But now your blue cars are gone
You better say so long
Hey, hey, hey, bye, bye, bye
New York, during the wartime,
became a place where artists escaped.
So it was a meeting of New York
and the best artists' minds
from Paris and from Berlin.
You better say so long
Your clowns bid you goodbye
New York at the end of the '50s.
And now we are going to the '60s.
While French Nouvelle Vague
had Cinmathque Franaise,
we had our 42nd Street.
Every night we went to 42nd Street,
where there were, like, 15 other--
no, maybe 20 movie houses.
And that was the period
when all of the arts
and also styles of life began changing.
They climaxed into the '60s.
We are not part, really, of subculture
or counterculture. We are the culture!
Painters, musicians, filmmakers.
They were not so much interested
in telling narrative stories.
The poetic aspect of cinema brought cinema
to the level of the other arts.
Beginning January '62,
my studio, the Film-Makers' Cooperative,
became a meeting ground
of all the filmmakers.
Every evening there were screenings.
And that's where Andy used to hang around.
But I did not know that he was Andy.
He was just sitting on the floor
with all the others.
And that's where he met
his early superstars
like Mario Montez
and Jack Smith and Gerard Malanga.
That was Andy's film school.
When I got to Goldsmiths,
it was really a free-flowing
educational institution.
They gave me viola lessons and
composition classes with Humphrey Searle.
He understood Cage and all those
people that I was delving into.
John Cage and "Water Walk."
John Cage was
the leading avant-garde figure
in music in New York and in America.
But I think La Monte
was getting ready to take over.
I got this Bernstein Fellowship.
They paid for my travel and whatever.
You're in that background of-- with--
Mrs. Koussevitzky is still alive.
She has afternoon soirees
for the students.
Well, they wouldn't let me perform
because they were too violent.
I asked Harry Kraut, who ran the program--
He asked if these pieces are violent.
Most of the piece was really
being inside the piano
and hitting the inside
of the piano or whatever.
Then I got an ax.
And I remember that one of the people
in the front row got up and ran out.
And that was Mrs. Koussevitzky.
She was-- She was in tears,
and I said,
"Wow, I'm really sorry that"
Yeah, she was upset for a little,
but don't worry.
We took her out for cocktails afterwards.
She was fine.
By that time I had met Cornelius Cardew,
and we were hanging out.
You know, you had somebody who
understood what you were talking about.
And Cornelius had met La Monte.
La Monte Young was next in line
to take over from John Cage.
Getting to Tanglewood
was my way to get to La Monte.
There has been a breakdown
to the point to where, you know,
it's not music anymore.
We'll see you next week. Take care, now.
After one had met La Monte, that was over.
You know, everybody wants to do
something razzmatazz, and look at me.
I was doing something that was intended
to take you into a very high
spiritual state.
Nobody had ever written a piece before me
that consisted
of all long, sustained tones.
Well, John was Welsh.
He wrote us a--
He wrote us a letter from
-From Wales. Or from London maybe.
-Or Wales or the UK someplace.
Someplace in the UK,
and he said he wanted
to come over and study and
-We-- I guess we said he could.
I didn't get to New York until 1963.
And it was my first time in New York,
and I was appalled. It was
You know, the steam
coming up from the sidewalks.
"Holy shit. This place is filthy."
So really La Monte's drones
and all of that was reassuring.
Here we were back in music,
focusing on what-- what are we gonna hear.
We're hearing drone, but really,
we were studying natural harmonics.
I got a call from Lou, and he said
to me that he was very depressed.
He said he was taking some treatments.
He thought that his parents were trying
to shock the gayness out of him.
I didn't believe a word of it,
knowing his parents.
Whether or not you want to say,
"Well, was he was clinically depressed?
Was he using an enormous amount of drugs?"
I think the tenor of the times
was not helpful.
And the available help at the time
was dismal.
So when you ask about Lou
in that time, I get upset.
And I get upset because
of the misconceptions that take place.
And because it doesn't do him service
and it doesn't do my parents service.
And it is simplistic and cartoonish
to think that there's an easy explanation.
He was gonna go to NYU.
He made it through a semester and a half,
as I recall.
He called me, and he said
that he was going to transfer to Syracuse.
And when he got up to Syracuse,
he was a different person.
Sullen, antagonistic.
He was very rebellious
about practically everything.
I had a hard time relating to him.
We would get stoned, and we'd jam.
We played Ray Charles, Frankie Lymon
once in a while. We played
We played fraternities
and sororities and bars.
We were very bad,
so we had to change our name a lot.
'Cause no one would hire us twice.
There were times
when I would miss a cue or I would be off.
And he would go crazy.
He would turn around and smash the cymbal.
He had no patience whatsoever.
Any-- Anybody that wasn't absolutely
perfect and right on.
We had a gig at St. Lawrence University
on this boat on the Saint Lawrence River.
Lou said, "I'm not playing on the boat."
And I said,
"Lou, we have to play on the boat. Just"--
He said, "I'm not." Boom!
And he puts his hand through a glass pane
in a door and rips his hand up.
So we had to take him to the hospital.
He gets stitches.
And, if I remember, it was his right hand.
So he said,
"Well, fuck you, I can't play."
I said, "You can sing,
and you're a shitty guitar player anyway,
so you'll be covered."
And we did.
He was like a three-year-old in many ways.
Whoa, hey, merry-go-round
We made a demo record called "Your Love."
Your little love
Your love, your little love
I never thought I was a real whole man
Till your love
We went to a meeting in the city
with a guy who liked
some of Lou's demo tapes.
And he turned to Lou, and he said to him,
"So, what is it that you wanna do?
What do you want to accomplish?"
He said, "I wanna be rich,
and I wanna be a rock star.
And I'm going to be rich,
and I'm going to be a rock star
whether you handle my music or not."
He was not comfortable in most places.
And if he wasn't comfortable
to begin with,
he really took advantage of it and
made everybody else uncomfortable.
So that that was his comfort.
I don't know why he was so insecure,
but I think he was terribly insecure.
And I think he was insecure all his life.
He was always very angry at people
for rejecting him,
and so he was gonna
cut that friendship off first.
In the dark church of music
which never is of land or sea alone
But blooms within the air inside the mind
Patterns in motion and action
Successions of processionals
Moving with majesty of certainty
To part the unparted curtains
And he's hanging out with Delmore by then.
The person I looked up to the most
was Delmore Schwartz.
I studied poetry with him,
but there were other things.
These astonishing little essays
and short stories.
I was amazed that someone could do that
with such simple, everyday language.
And Delmore Schwartz thought Lou had
a tremendous amount of talent
and, as a matter of fact,
got a number of his poems published
in the Evergreen Review.
And his poetry was very heavy
on gay themes.
Very dark gay themes.
The idea of meeting men
in public bathrooms,
having sex with a man near a urinal
and folding that into a poem.
And when I read the-- one of these poems,
and I said to him--
I said, "Lou, what the fuck?
Where-- Where does all of this
degrading idea of sex come from?"
He said, "If it's not dark and if it's not
degrading, it's not hot. It's not sex."
He said,
"You couldn't possibly understand it.
You're becoming a Republican."
Must've been Thanksgiving
or Christmas when we went to the Hayloft.
I don't remember much about it,
other than it was a gay bar.
There was a girl there named Action.
He tried to set me up with this girl.
And I said, "Yeah, I'm not gay.
I don't wanna be gay.
I don't wanna experiment.
I'm not interested."
And he said, "Go dance with her." So,
"Oh, okay, I'll dance with her," you know.
I think he took me there just to show me
where he was and what he did.
And people said,
"Well, why didn't you care about that?
How could you, you know,
be with him if he's with a guy?"
And I said,
"That has nothing to do with me."
And I'm not jealous.
It just didn't bother me.
Much more horrifying was driving
into Manhattan, to Harlem,
to pick up some-- I think it was heroin.
And we'd go to literally
125th and Saint Nicholas.
Go up into this apartment house.
He liked very much taking me
to a place that was not safe.
And he was just setting up a scenario
that then he would have material
to write about.
He was always writing.
He was always writing either a story
or lyrics or a song.
But he always was very clear
that there's no difference
between being a writer of a book
and a writer of lyrics.
Seventeen Voznesenskys
are groaning yet voiceless.
My cries have been torn
onto miles of magnetic tape
and endless red tongue.
When I was in college,
I was very influenced by Ginsberg.
"Howl," "Kaddish."
Burroughs's Naked Lunch.
Hubert Selby Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn.
I thought, "That's what I wanna do,
except with a drum and guitar."
So, "I don't know just where I'm going
I'm gonna try for the kingdom if I can
Because it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
All, you know, things
Aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel like Jesus's son
And I guess I just don't know
I guess I just don't know."
Probably there's never been a problem
in human behavior or misbehavior
that's been with us quite so long
or has been so little understood
as homosexuality.
In your estimation,
what's the most serious sex crime?
The crime against nature.
What are the penalties
for a crime against nature?
The maximum sentence
is 20 years in the state penitentiary.
You know,
we got arrested for being in bars.
But so what? It was part of it.
There was a bar called the San Remo
that everyone seemed sort of gay,
extremely smart and/or creative.
And they turned out to be Edward Albee
and Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns
and at the center of it
is the exploding art world.
Money, parties, power.
Cinema is exploding.
The New York Film Festival,
Lincoln Center,
all that is happening in the mid-'60s.
And it was an outrageous over-camp.
I mean, camp was something
that you really played with
like Jack Smith did.
Lo, it was a super--
a super overstimulated night
on the eve of the world's destruction.
And at 56 Ludlow Street,
I, Jack Smith, met Angus and Tony.
Tony Conrad, he took the apartment
at 56 Ludlow Street
which became so important.
I didn't want to be a part
of the economy,
so I lived in an apartment
that cost $25.44 a month.
When you crossed over,
it created a very strange change
between Lower East Side documentary,
avant-garde lifestyle
and then the formal art scene
of the-- what became Soho.
Jack, I guess, moved in with him.
The neighbors next door
were Piero Heliczer and his wife Kate.
Then Angus MacLise came back to New York,
and he ended up in a third apartment
on the same floor at 56 Ludlow.
And then also Mario Montez
lived in the building. John
John Cale moved in with Tony.
But that Ludlow Street core
became the Dream Syndicate
with La Monte Young.
La Monte, Marian and Tony and I,
for a year and a half, we did this
for an hour and a half every day.
I've held a drone.
And it was a discipline,
and it opened your eyes
to a lot of possibilities.
Each frequency is perceived
at a different point
on the cerebral cortex.
So when you set up a group of frequencies
that are repeated over and over,
it establishes a psychological state
that can be very strong and profound.
You can hear details
in the harmonic series
that are extraordinarily beautiful
and unusual.
And you begin to realize
that there are new places in sound
that you could find a home.
We never had to worry about,
"Give me an A. Let's"-- No.
We found the most stable
thing that we could tune to
was the 60-cycle hum of the refrigerator.
Because 60-cycle hum was to us
the drone of Western civilization.
So the fundamental, that is,
the key that we're in,
if we're using the third harmonic
as 60 cycles, is ten cycles.
And, lo and behold, ten cycles is--
is the alpha rhythm of the brain
when you're asleep.
All of a sudden,
"Hey, there's a story here."
The interesting thing about
the Dream Syndicate
was, of course, it was minimalist music.
Full scale, hold one note,
and listen to all the intonations in it.
La Monte Young would
stretch one note into four hours.
I went with Andy
to one of his performances.
Before I had gone to the Factory,
I had seen Warhol's Kiss.
There were no titles.
I had no idea who had made it.
And it was a weekly serial,
so that every week,
a two-and-three-quarter-minute roll
shown at proper speed,
which was 16 frames a second.
The thing that's always interesting
about the Warhol silents
is the reason they're unreal
is they're supposed to be shown
at 16 frames a second,
which means that the people
in those images are breathing
and their hearts are beating
in a different time frame
than yours is while you watch it.
And that creates an incredible sense
of aesthetic distance.
There is a post office
in the Empire State Building.
And we were walking with bags of
Film Culture magazine to the post office,
and we suddenly stopped
and looked at the building.
I think I said, "This is a perfect iconic
image for Andy Warhol."
And that's how it happened.
Warhol, avant-garde film
and avant-garde music,
it was all about extended time.
La Monte's idea of what music was
was really--
I'd say it was a Chinese idea.
Yes, it's the Chinese idea of time.
And really, you know,
music lasts for centuries.
This was an improvisational experience
and it's kind of a religious atmosphere.
And also very mysterious.
And then Tony, one day, walked in
with a pickup, and that was it.
We had the power with amplification.
All sorts of things happened, you know?
Difference tones and all that
that shake the building.
I mean, it's really powerful.
I mean, when we played, you know,
it sounded like a B-52
was in your living room.
I'm a road runner, baby
And you can't keep up with me
I'm a road runner, baby
And you can't keep up with me
Well, come on, baby, let's race
Baby, baby, will you
I had been collecting
rock and roll records
as a kind of fetish.
John was surprised to find this happening,
you know, when he moved in with me.
We were listening to stuff
that was really--
had more to do with what
we were doing with La Monte
because of the harmonies
that were going on.
The pure harmonies and all that.
Hank Williams and the Everly Brothers.
"Dream." Dream.
The way that song starts
and you could hear
all the difference tones, I go, "Whoa."
I was dazzled by rock and roll
by that point.
I was dazzled by what the Beatles
were doing, and--
and the lyrics that the Beatles
were singing.
This was not childish stuff.
"I know what it's like to be dead,
and you're making me feel
like I've never been born."
Wait a minute. That's something
that Lou would write.
And out of that became
that first crazy band,
which was called something
like the Primitives.
And that was John
and Walter De Maria
and Tony and Lou.
Okay, I want everybody to settle down now.
We got something new
we're gonna show you now.
It's gonna knock you dead
when we come upside your head.
You get ready. Said here we go.
Yeah. All right.
As a staff songwriter
on a budget label in Long Island City,
I moved to New York.
Pickwick was a very successful
budget record company.
Ninety-nine cent records.
Twelve surfing songs or twelve
"we're breaking up" songs.
And they would sell them at Woolworths.
He had a vision.
He was talented beyond his talent,
if you understand what I mean.
He can't sing, he can't play,
but everything he does in that
crackly voice of his resonated with me.
With Lou, we were gonna blaze a trail,
which eventually he did do.
Tony had got an invitation to a party.
And we went up there, and this guy
comes up to us and said, "Hey.
You guys look very commercial.
Would you like to come
and promote a record?
Now, come out to Long Island City."
And it was Pickwick Records, and
their songwriter at the time was Lou Reed.
When I met Lou,
there was a lot of eyeballing going on.
So we had coffee, and I had my viola.
Oh, one more time
I was still playing
sort of classical viola
with this heavy vibrato and really
sounded, like, really classical
and good and all of that,
and Lou said,
"Shit. I knew you had an edge on me."
Everybody get down on your face now
Are you ready?
I wanted to do
a writing session with them.
I kept saying to them that we ought
to write on the fly,
which they all liked.
And interestingly enough,
he was the key to that.
He was a songwriter, and he started
to play the lick. And I loved it.
And then immediately John
and all of them, they were with it.
And that's where we did "The Ostrich,"
where many, many great producers
like Warren Thompson
of Elektra Records loved that.
-Do the ostrich
-Whoa-whoa-whoa whoa, yeah
You turn to the left
And then you feet upside your left
You did great.
The song had been written
on a guitar that was tuned to one note.
There was tremendous noise from the guitar
and Lou doing tambourine and singing.
And he was totally spontaneous.
Exactly what you think of
when you think of guys in--
in a garage doing stuff like that.
And it was great.
Yeah, I missed that in my childhood.
Then we're on the same bill
with Shirley Ellis or--
"Bo-nana-bana fee-fo-fum."
You know that-- that song?
And the DJ said, "Yay! That's great.
Now we have this band here."
He said, "It's the Primitives
right from New York City
with their latest hit song 'The Ostrich.'"
I felt that this was like
an almost magical mistake.
It was such a displacement.
I never saw this as a vehicle
for my serious music efforts.
At Pickwick, I will tell you that he had
a tremendous track record
of being high, of being sick,
of falling down, of having me
have to rush him over to a hospital.
that was one of the reasons why I,
as much as I thought he was talented,
I wanted to end the relationship also.
And Lou said, "They won't let me
record the songs I wanna do."
And that was, like, red to a bull.
I said, "What?"
And I said, "What are the songs
that you wanna--"
And he showed me these other songs.
I was writing about pain.
And I was writing about things that hurt.
And I was writing about reality as I
knew it, or friends of mine had known,
or things I had seen, or heard, or--
I was interested in communicating
to people who were on the outside.
He said, "Why won't they play?"
Because people will complain
about these songs
being about advocating the use of drugs.
But they're not about drugs.
They're about guys who are sick
and dissatisfied with their lives.
Why don't we go do it ourselves?
In 1964, that same apartment on Ludlow,
then it was now Cale and Reed.
"I'm Waiting for the Man."
Words and music Lou Reed.
It's useful for you to be antagonistic
because you define a position
and you define the opposite position
and build something out of that.
The thing that we understood where we were
and how much disdain we had
for everything else, and it worked.
Oh, pardon me, sir
Nothing could be further from my mind
But I'm just waiting for a dear
Dear friend of mine
Yeah, he was always saying, "Shit, man.
How the fuck did this happen? From Wales?"
He showed me the lyrics for "Venus
in Furs" and "I'm Waiting for the Man,"
and I thought these were really coherent,
well-crafted lyrics.
But I said, "Wait, the music is not
backing up what these lyrics are about."
And I got very excited
and I think I got Lou excited
about what the possibilities were.
And we went through all sorts
of different calibrations
of trios, quartets, whatever.
Shiny, shiny
He was on a subway one day and he
met Sterling with no shoes on in winter,
and he hadn't seen him since Syracuse.
Well, I'm sure he saw Lou
play with his band at Syracuse,
and I'm sure he wanted in.
I think he just wanted to do it.
He was ready.
He'd been playing
since he was 15, taught himself.
He was always
holding his guitar at parties,
and that's what he wanted to do.
And there was the chance.
All of a sudden we had a guitar player
who really thought about his guitar solos.
Lou and I would sit around,
and we'd improvise.
And Sterling would solo.
You know, he played really good,
like, Isley Brothers guitar.
He was very natural and gentle.
The idea that you can combine R & B
and Wagner was around the corner.
I was driving home from class one day
and "Not Fade Away" came
on the radio, the Stones version,
and pulled off the road 'cause it was
just too exciting to just keep driving.
They were looking for a drummer,
and I said,
"Well, Jim's sister plays the drums."
And I drove Lou out to meet her.
And Maureen was
the sister of an old friend of mine,
who also went to Syracuse
and who also was friends with Lou.
And Maureen had been playing
with a girls' band in Long Island,
and they broke up.
So she just came in to do,
I don't know,
just to do a little percussion,
and just fool around.
I don't know. It was very casual.
And when she'd come home
at night, like 5:00,
she'd put on Bo Diddley records
and, like, play every night
from 5:00 to 12:00.
And so we figured she'd be
the perfect drummer. And she was.
It was fun, and I really was excited
to have the opportunity
to play live with people.
I'd never played with anybody before.
So that was fun.
The way we could give Bob Dylan
a run for his money
was to go out onstage and improvise
different songs every night.
And Lou was expert at this.
He could just improvise lyrics
at a drop of a hat about anything.
He could come and sit down
with the guitar and I'd play the viola,
and he would start a song.
Up would pop a lyric
that was really unusual.
Then it all would roll around
and we would get something.
You never knew when Lou or John
was gonna go off into nowhere land
and be playing who-knows-what.
I felt like my role was to be there
so when they're ready to come back,
there it is.
Lou, right next to me--
It was like a wall went up of sound.
And I would watch his mouth to know
where we were in the song.
I basically followed Lou.
Apart from all the
well-crafted songs that he would write,
this improvisation was what
I was interested in.
Strongly influenced by coming directly
from the subconscious.
And when I heard Lou's tales
of shock therapy,
I kind of put it all together in my head.
The way that struck a chord
mainly with the music
was the music was really dream music.
And what I really liked in most of
the rock and roll that was going on
was the repetitive nature of the riffs,
and what was the one riff
that you could create
that would exist and live happily
throughout the entire song.
And drone was obviously one of them.
When we formed the Velvet Underground
I had some songs and having them
come to life like that, that was amazing.
I mean, I was a guy playing in bar bands.
In most collaborations,
it's when you put two and two
together and get seven.
That weirdness, it shouldn't have
existed in this space.
And there was always a standard
that was kind of set
for how to be elegant
and how to be brutal.
Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant
Don't forsake him
Strike, dear mistress
And cure his heart
I am tired
I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
The drone fit in as soon
as "Venus in Furs" hit, you know.
I knew that we had a way
of doing something in rock and roll
that nobody else had done.
And all that was done with detuned guitars
that I was really proud of,
because I'd say, "Hey, Lou.
Nobody's gonna be able to figure out
how the hell to do this."
In some ways I was surprised
by the response in New York.
I thought we did something
no one else did.
Shiny leather in the dark
I thought what we did was so brave
that people would really
just be bowled over by it.
Strike, dear mistress
And cure his heart
Caf Bizarre, very small thing.
We were real excited
that they had this job.
Not too many people there.
Nobody dancing. Very weird.
Some had their backs to the crowd.
They had this off-putting aura.
You know, yikes, they were scary.
Barbara Rubin was one of these
elite downtown filmmakers.
Really knew Bob Dylan, knew Andy.
She worked very hard
to put people together.
She came into the Factory and announced
there was a band downtown
that they should really come and see.
many more people were in the club.
Gerard was the diplomatic face
of the Factory.
And he came to me and said,
"You guys are invited to come up
to the Factory tomorrow afternoon."
Barbara Rubin brings them in,
they're all dressed in black
and they started playing.
They played "Heroin." We were like
Unbelievable. Just completely bowled over.
The thing that was
so encouraging and inspiring
when we got to the Factory
was that it was all about work.
Every day when I walked in there,
he was always there ahead of me,
he'd always say,
"How many songs did you write?"
"I wrote ten." And he said,
"Oh, you're so lazy, you know.
Why didn't you write 15?"
People would come in, people would go.
Faces would come in
that you'd recognize, faces would go.
And it was all commerce.
I don't know
Just where I'm going
But I'm
Gonna try
For the kingdom if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I tell you things
Aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess that I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know
Andy is a divinity.
He's an extraplanetary being.
He was like a father
always saying, "Yes, yes, yes."
That part of his character, that, I think,
made everybody come to the Factory.
They felt like home.
Is when the blood begins to flow
When it shoots up the dropper's neck
When I'm closing in on death
You can't help me, not you guys
Or all you sweet girls
With all your sweet talk
I wanted to impress him.
He was an audience.
I was desperate for an audience.
All right. Just--
You don't have to do anything.
Just what you're doing.
That's it.
There was no direction.
Warhol never made a sound,
but his presence started the thunder
after a while,
'cause he didn't make a sound.
Be the death of me
So you're propelled to do something.
Look straight into the camera.
Try not to move. Try not to blink.
It was really a skill.
And then I'm better off than dead
And thank God that I just don't care
And I guess that I just don't know
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know
Be the death of me
We're sponsoring a new band.
It's called the Velvet Underground.
Well, since I don't really believe
in painting anymore,
I thought it would be a nice way
of combining--
And we have this chance
to combine music and art
and films all together.
And we're still working on kind of a--
the biggest discotheque in the world.
I'm telling you
And pretty much
everything in June, in the recent past
-Is it on?
-The present shows
There's a lot of good things happening
business wise.
You've got the world coming up
in this position
and that's success and a great deal
of happiness to come.
And the wheel of fortune which, uh
indicates more of your, um
ambitions and also
very close friends,
people that are very close.
Not much dissension going on,
ya know, right now.
Ya know,
no arguments and that type of thing.
That's because we're not working now.
It shows a
Career, business, um
your profession, that type of thing
shows a lot of competition always.
There will always be a great deal
of competition
For the most part,
people who came to the Factory
came because the cameras were running.
And they thought they could become famous,
they could become stars.
A very promising outlook.
A lot of new insight.
And a lot of new things happening.
Some ideal of female beauty,
and if you didn't measure up
And who ever could measure up?
That was very, very damaging.
It was not a good place for women.
And if you never can get past the fact
that what you were valued for
is primarily your looks
then, you know.
One day we were working at the Factory,
and Gerard just came back from Europe.
He had a 45-rpm single record,
and it was this strange voice
That I care that you love me
I'm not saying that I care
I'm not saying I'll be there
When you want me
She had been in La Dolce Vita.
Anita Ekberg was the star,
but Nico was like the clandestine face
in that movie that everybody saw
because she's so hauntingly beautiful.
Then eventually, Nico came to New York.
Paul started getting interested
in Nico in a promotional way.
Somehow, Paul started convincing Andy that
you can't have just a rock and roll group,
because Lou's not that much
of a big looker guy or anything,
you know, he doesn't have a great voice.
"You gotta have a beautiful girl in it."
Lou had to be just about begged
by Andy to do it.
There she goes again
I know it irritated them to death
in the beginning
that she simply could not hold a pitch.
I think it was John again who figured out
what to do with that voice.
A lot of it was uncanny.
In that she couldn't do this,
she couldn't do that,
and then all of a sudden
she could do it all very well.
I have to learn that.
All of a sudden,
you realize the eye for publicity
and the idea of this blonde iceberg
in the middle of the stage
next to us all dressed in black.
I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are
In case you don't know
The three or four songs she sang
were perfect for her,
and anyone else singing them,
it just doesn't work.
She was always very mysterious
to us in the band.
We were not widely traveled.
We were not sophisticated,
except for John.
Except that she could sing.
She was not there
just simply to stand up and be beautiful.
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you
Andy had wanted her
to sing inside a plexiglass box,
and Nico wasn't having it.
She was a serious musician,
and she wanted to sing these songs.
The spectacle of her beauty
I think was completely beside the point
for her.
So you won't be afraid
When you think the night
Has seen your mind
It might've been Andy's take on her,
you know,
she's so remote, she's so unreachable.
I don't think she wanted to be
super famous.
I think she just wanted to make good work
that was, you know, good.
'Cause I see you
When you're not famous,
you get compared to whoever.
You know, so she would be compared
with Marlene Dietrich or Garbo.
-I'll be your mirror
-Reflect what you are
-I'll be your mirror
-Reflect what you are
Now they compare people to her.
-I'll be your mirror
-Reflect what you are
We got something from them.
We met Tom Wilson,
who did-- produced Bob Dylan
and we were getting somewhere.
We could make a record.
Norman Dolph walked in,
gave $1,500 to Andy to make the record.
We were chasing something.
I'm waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, 125
Feel sick and dirty
More dead than alive
Andy was extraordinary,
and I honestly don't think
these things could've occurred
without Andy.
I don't know
if we would've gotten a contract
if he hadn't said he'd do the cover.
Or if Nico wasn't so beautiful.
Hey, white boy
You chasin' our women around?
Oh, pardon me, sir
It's furthest from my mind
We rehearsed
for a year for the banana album.
Andy produced our first record
in the sense that he was there
breathing in the studio.
But he did more than just that.
He made it possible for us
to make a record
without anybody changing it or everything,
because Andy Warhol was there.
PR shoes and a big straw hat
He understood exactly what we were about
and what our creative side was all about
and how best to bring that out.
And he gave us a lot of support.
gotta wait
I'm waiting for my man
Nico was in love with Lou.
Andy was in love with Lou.
Boys and girls, men and women,
fell in love with him.
I was already painting and drawing
and wanting to be understood,
and was looking for a scene
until a friend of mine brought over
their record when I was 15,
and he wanted to trade it
'cause he-- it wasn't his taste,
and I had a Fugs record
that I was willing to pass up.
I loved the cadence of Lou Reed's voice.
"PR shoes and a big straw hat."
The-- The--
And then the Cale drone underneath it.
You know, and that was it.
I mean, you don't want this record?
This is for me.
These people would under--
the first words out of my mouth
might have been,
"These people would understand me."
He's got the works
Gives you sweet taste
There were elements
of what Lou was doing
that were just unavoidably right.
The nature of his lyric writing.
Dylan had certainly brought a new kind of
intelligence to pop song writing.
But then Lou had taken it
to the avant-garde
and had its roots in
Baudelaire and Rimbaud and
But at that time,
it wasn't considered important.
Not promoted.
A lot of radio stations
wouldn't play our stuff.
"Heroin" and, you know, they don't--
they wouldn't play them.
But also MGM was not the--
I think at that point, they had decided
that the Mothers of Invention
were a better bet,
and they just didn't do much at all.
Almost like they signed us
to sort of get us off the streets.
Until tomorrow, but that's just
Some other time
I'm waiting for my man
Walk it home
Oh, it's all right
We've all come here together.
Andy Warhol, poet Gerard Malanga.
Over there, if you move your camera,
Ed Sanders
of a rock and roll group called the Fugs.
Peter Orlovsky, who is a poet
and who also sings Indian mantras.
Jonas Mekas takes movies,
which he's doing now.
In the New York area alone,
there were, like, 30, 40 different artists
doing something that did not stick
to their own art,
but included other arts.
So we organized the first such festival,
like a survey in what was happening
in expanded arts and expanded cinema.
That was in November, December '65.
In '66, I rented a theater on 41st Street
in Times Square, and we continued there.
That's where Chelsea Girls opened,
a lot of Warhol movies.
Teenage Mary said to Uncle Dave
"I sold my soul, must be saved
We decided we would do
a multimedia thing,
and it ran for a few weeks, and it was
called "Andy Warhol's Up-Tight."
And it starred the Velvet Underground
and Gerard Malanga
and Mary Woronov
doing the dancing and all.
Run, run, run, run, run
Gypsy death to you
Tell you whatcha do
To prepare for it, we did--
filmed the Velvet Underground and Nico
in the Factory,
which we then, as they performed live
on the stage at the cinematheque,
projected on them.
Went to sell her soul, she wasn't high
Didn't know, thinks she could buy it
Somehow the Dom Polski
on Saint Mark's Place
in the East Village
became available as a space,
and we took it over for a month,
and expanded "Andy Warhol's Up-Tight"
into the "Exploding Plastic Inevitable."
This used to be the Polish national home.
Now it's the Dom,
the center of East Village nightlife.
Music by Nico and the Velvet Underground.
"The Exploding Plastic Inevitable,"
designed by pop-art industry, Andy Warhol,
and starring his girl of the year.
Her vocal style is unusual.
Andy has a group of rock
and rollers called the Velvet Underground.
His idea for a discotheque
is to take a dance hall,
have his musicians play,
show several movies all at the same time,
have colored lights going
while people dance or watch.
I became Nico's guitar player
for those shows she did at the Dom.
And I also did an opening set.
I was not-- I didn't have a record,
I was not an attraction of any kind.
I just did a set.
But, I mean, no one really got there
until Andy would get there.
He was the attraction.
For the balcony,
Andy used to place the projectors
and various gels and colors and strobes.
Since no one really knew
how to use lights,
we let the audience use them.
That's another reason
we didn't make money,
they were always breaking these things,
or they would fall off the balcony,
and Andy's technique was something like
"Oh, who knows how to work the lights?
Oh, do you know how to work the lights?"
People would watch his movies,
but they couldn't watch 'em
'cause there's no story.
So it's that weird place where,
"Is it reality or story?"
And we don't know. So they were hypnotic.
Upstairs it was a scene that developed.
People like Walter Cronkite
and Jackie Kennedy,
and a lot of the socialites showed up
down there because of Andy
and because of his connections
with the Central Park West art collectors.
Incredible people came and danced.
Nureyev came and danced.
The whole New York City Ballet
used to come and dance.
I don't think they ever formed
so that they would be
a spectacular stage event.
They formed because there was
this amazing musical thing
that happened with Lou's songs.
Barbara Rubin, who discovered
them for the right reasons,
is the one who started flashing
those fucking polka dots on them
when they were playing,
as if they weren't enough to look at.
I'd say, "Lou, you--
why are they doing this to you?"
And of course, he would shrug and say,
"It's what Andy will want,
and, you know, it's family."
After we'd done about three weeks,
we went out on the tour.
There were so many times
we'd play at some kind of art show,
and they'd invited Andy and, I guess,
we're the exhibit, you know?
They'd leave in droves,
these would be rich society people
and artists and stuff, and this was--
they didn't wanna hear a band,
let alone what we were doing.
I had seen the Exploding
Plastic Inevitable show
with the Velvet Underground
in New York at the Dom already.
But when I was here and heard
they were coming here
and in Provincetown where I lived--
It was at the Chrysler Museum.
It was booked as art.
It wasn't even packed, you know.
The town didn't get it.
I thought it was so bizarre, in a way,
to try to imagine them
coming at the height
of the hippie times and everything,
when they were so anti-hippie.
I know we made lots of fans
amongst those people,
but we used to joke around and say,
"Well, how many people left?
Oh, about half.
Oh, we must have been good tonight."
It was not only noise,
but the kind of music
you can hear when--
when it's a storm outside.
Paul then booked us into the West Coast.
Monday, Monday
So good to me
Musically, the West Coast
was an organized force that tried
to predominate in the pop scene.
It was all I hoped it would be
I remember we were in our rent-a-car
coming back from the airport,
I turned on the radio and the first
song that came out was "Monday, Monday."
I said, "Well, I don't-- I don't know.
Maybe we're not ready
for this sort of thing yet."
We came to Los Angeles,
and the first time we noticed
that we were different
was when we went to, you know,
the place, Tropicana Motel.
So we're all in black,
we're all completely covered up,
and we're all sitting around the pool.
I mean, it looked really stupid.
Except for Gerard.
Gerard was in back, fucking someone.
Sunday morning
Brings the dawning
It's just a restless feeling
By my side
We'd never been to the West Coast,
and it was odd the way it struck us
that everybody was very healthy.
And their idea of a light show
was to have a slide of Buddha on the wall.
When we came to California,
it was at the Trip and they had a stage.
What do you put on a stage? Gerard and me.
We would do this performance
for more people to look at the Velvets.
There's always someone around you
Who will call
It's nothing at all
And they snuck Frank Zappa on the bill,
and the Mothers of Invention.
And we despised them.
And we felt they were everything
the West Coast was.
They were hippies. We hated hippies.
I mean, flower power,
you know, burning bras.
I mean, what the fuck is wrong with you?
This "love, peace" crap, we hated that.
Get real.
And free love and,
"Everybody's wonderful and I love
everybody. Aren't I wonderful?"
Everybody wants to have a peaceful world
and not get shot in the head or something,
but you cannot change minds
by handing a flower
to some bozo who wants to shoot ya.
They should have been
helping homeless people or-- Do something.
Do something about it. Don't walk around
with your flowers in your hair.
That was kind of an avoidance
of how important danger was
and how, you know,
if you're off in that world
you don't recognize danger
for the value it has.
The human race was fucked up
and they were getting fucked by society.
So you don't get depressed
and fall over because of it.
You become strong
and you become anti a lot of things
that other people aren't anti.
So you're not--
And that's sort of an--
the place where the artist comes in
because he's not with society.
He's different.
It's almost impossible to describe
the feeling of being in a rock dance,
and maybe that's why so many
young people flock here every weekend
to see what Bill Graham
and Fillmore West is all about.
People are generally very nice here.
There's a joie.
There's a certain esprit
which doesn't exist in the other cities,
which-- New York, Chicago, Detroit,
where everything is pretty nails-y,
you know, tar.
Boy, he hated us.
When we were going onstage,
he was standing there, and he said,
"I hope you fuckers bomb."
And well, why did you ask for--
Why did you book us?
I think he was really jealous
and pissed off
'cause he has claimed to have
the first multimedia,
and it was pitiful compared to what
Andy had put together. It really was.
And we get reviewed.
"They should be buried,
the Velvet Underground,
buried underground deep."
That's what what's-her-name said, Cher.
And we go back to New York, and we go--
ready to go back to the Dom.
And, nope, we can't go back
to the Dom. "Why?"
Well, he sold the lease to Al Grossman,
who's Dylan's manager, and Dylan
had renamed it the Balloon Farm.
And we were out.
Here she comes now
She's gone, gone, gone
Ready, ready, ready, ready, ready
And the second album came around,
and that was when you saw
the effects of what being on the road did.
And all the aggro.
And it really told you--
The aggro reflected everything
that was going on in the band.
It was getting really
more and more difficult for us
to operate together.
-I know that she's long dead and gone
-Heard her call my name
-Still, it ain't the same
-Heard her call my name
Oh, when I wake up in this morning
-I heard her call my name
-Heard her call my name
Probably the speediest album
that there was. Really cranked up.
The engineer left.
One of the engineers said,
"I don't have to listen to this.
I'll put it in record and I'm leaving.
When you're done, come and get me."
-White light
-White light goin', messin' up my mind
-White light
-And don't you know
-It's gonna make me go blind
-White heat
Aw, white heat
It tickle me down to my toes
-White light
-Oh, have mercy
While I have it, goodness knows
All the songs
that were on the second album,
it was all off the cuff and aggressive.
I mean, that's
that's straight amphetamine.
Aw, white heat
It tickle me down to my toes
Nobody was really talking to each other.
You know, everybody kept
pushing their faders up.
And so it got louder
and louder and louder.
"Well, who's the loudest now?"
You know, it was just child games.
If we don't improvise,
we're gonna drive each other crazy.
Well, as it turned out,
we drive each other crazy anyway.
But improvisation helped on the road
when you just got off
playing the song over and over and over.
Cooperation was breaking down.
White light moved in me
Through my brain
-White light
-White light goin'
-Makin' you go insane
-White heat
Aw, white heat
It tickles me down to my toes
White light, I said now
Goodness knows
We never intended that now
it's the Velvet Underground and Nico.
That-- It was just a-- That was
in our minds a temporary thing.
Here's Room 546
It's enough to make you sick
Brigid's all wrapped up in foil
You wonder if
Nico did everything
that we asked her to do in the band,
and-- But I think
that in her heart of hearts
there was something else
that was really pulling her.
She would always be sitting down
writing lyrics, writing poetry.
There was always something
drawing her away from collective work.
She was a wanderer.
She wandered into the situation,
and then she just quietly wandered off.
Magic marker row
You wonder just
How high they go
Here they come now
And then it-- After all of that,
Lou suddenly went crazy.
And then fired Andy and
and Andy called him a rat.
The whole thing was done
behind closed doors.
I mean, I had no idea
that Lou had fired Andy.
People thought Andy Warhol
was the lead guitarist,
and that made life a little difficult when
we left the-- our great shepherd.
So this is called "Sister Ray."
It's about some queens.
And one's called Duck
and the other's called Sally.
Duck and Sally inside
Searching for the down pipe
Who're staring at Miss Rayon
Who's licking up her pig pen
I'm searching for my mainline
I couldn't hit it sideways
Harvard professors,
fashion models from New York,
honest-to-God juvenile delinquents,
you know, bike gangs
nerds like myself.
Grateful Dead fans. A lot of people
were fans of both bands.
We started realizing
that we were getting a following.
And of course that was nice,
especially in Boston,
because we played there so often.
I saw them
a total of about 60 or 70 times.
The reason I felt emotionally free
hearing it is I was hearing this music
that I realized sounded like nothing else.
They'd get into a certain sound
and then never again.
That was what was exciting.
Oh, do it, yeah, just like
Yeah, just like Sister Ray said
So not only was it new,
but it was radically different.
It was this slow, mid-tempo or slow tempo
stuff that wasn't rock and roll.
It was this strange, strange melodies.
You could watch them play
and there would be overtones
that you couldn't account for.
You could see with, you know--
Then you'd hear a lead--
a fuzz lead over that.
Something-- And you'd hear the bassline.
But there'd be
these other sounds in the room,
and you could look at everyone
and you were just--
Where is it coming from?
It was this group sound.
Typical would be a long version
of "Sister Ray"
and the five seconds afterwards.
The five seconds afterwards tells you
a lot about what it was like to see them.
So all of a sudden, you know,
they'd be going--
Then all the different keyboard parts.
Then there was that--
all these different things. The drums.
And all of a sudden--
And it would stop like that,
and the audience
would be dead silent for one
Five, and then they'd applaud.
They, the Velvet Underground,
had hypnotized them one more time.
Here I am at the Boston Tea Party,
and the Velvet Underground
has got their amps.
They are already starting to set up.
I just watched them tune up.
I would ask questions.
I'd say, "How come you use just
the fuzz tone on that passage? Why?"
And like, "And that sound?"
And he'd say, "That sound,
young man, is many things."
And Sterling Morrison was the one
who taught me how to play guitar.
The freedom of it made me feel
less tied to high school,
less tied to any conventions
that other music had
and helped me figure out
how to make my own music.
This is what they were like.
They were generous.
They were certainly generous with me.
They let me open a show for them once.
And so when there was tensions
between people in the band,
I was allowed to hang around.
They knew I wasn't gonna say anything.
But, yeah, you could feel some tension.
But I was very shocked
when it was so extreme
that John Cale wasn't in the band anymore.
There were often sparks,
you know, the three guys.
In fact, you know, I could hardly go
to a rehearsal, it was just so stressful.
They might have been arguing
about the music itself.
Or Lou could just be being peevish,
or maybe too much in charge,
telling other people what to do.
That was just always there.
Lou going for it, being on top.
I really didn't know how to please him.
I mean, there was nothing
that I could do that--
You'd try and be nice,
he'd hate you more. He was
And trying to suggest something,
he'd just dismiss it.
He's a tortured person.
Although I have to say, John Cale,
he could really go off.
He just makes it so unpleasant
to be near him
if he doesn't feel good.
And he was dark.
The thing that we understood
where we were, where everything else was,
and how much disdain we had
for everything else.
You know, in the end, unfortunately,
it became each of us.
I think there came a point
when you just said, "Hell with it.
We're not solving our problems here
by acting like this.
And nobody's out there
to help us to straighten it out."
And we'd never let anybody tell us
what to do.
If all those drugs hadn't been around, we
would have all been pushing for something.
That it was the time
to really back off for a minute
because the trust was gone.
Maybe Lou got jealous.
I would attribute it
to something like that.
Lou made an ultimatum
that either he or John would have to go.
He called Sterling and I, and we met him
at a coffee shop or something,
and he told us this.
You know, he just couldn't work
with John anymore,
and we could either
stay with him or go with John.
I got a visit from Sterling,
and he said, "I've just come from Lou."
And I said, "Yeah,
we gotta start rehearsing.
We're going to Cleveland on--
on the weekend."
He said, "Well, no."
He said, "We are, yes. You're not."
And I said, "What are you talking about?"
He said, "Well, Lou's sent me over here
to tell you that
he told the rest of us that if John goes,
I don't go."
And that was it.
And there was that moment again,
that flash of wondering
what the hell's gonna happen next.
I thought,
"Well, I better get on to production."
It was really devastating to me,
because by this point,
this band helped me understand life.
Like, the sounds they were making
helped me build a dreamscape.
Their tone colors-- this was--
I mean, to me this was being-- like
being in the presence of Michelangelo.
Lou really, really wanted
to get some success going.
You know, real success.
Maybe he wanted to make it less
avant-garde, or whatever the word is.
You know, more normal.
Here we go. Rolling on one.
She's over by the corner
Doug Yule came in from what I remember,
gallantly learning many songs
very quickly.
And he in himself
was a very exacting and serious musician.
And with his own harmonic sense,
which brought something different.
I think the difference was profound.
I think we were still a good band,
and Doug had his own things
to bring to the band,
but no one could replace Cale.
Don't you know something?
She sent 'em right back
All right
Good evening.
We're your local Velvet Underground,
and I'm glad to see you.
Thank you.
And we're particularly glad
that people could find a little time
to come out and just have some fun
to some rock and roll.
They were playing really quiet.
They'd started playing much quieter
at this point.
Sometimes I feel so happy
Sometimes I feel so sad
Sometimes I feel so happy
But mostly you just make me mad
Baby, you just make me mad
Linger on
Your pale blue eyes
Linger on
Your pale blue eyes
There was a certain theory
behind it, and that was of space.
Like, all the songs were very spacey.
Like, you know, we didn't put things in,
we took things out,
which is kind of the reverse
of the way everybody else works.
Like, you know, we never add instruments,
we don't bring people in for sessions.
We don't-- We don't basically do anything
that we can't reproduce onstage.
The third album, the gray album,
we were playing in LA,
and Steve said, you know,
"There's a change of plans.
We're gonna stay over an extra week
and do an album."
Candy says
"I've come to hate my body
And all that it requires
"Candy Says" has its own kind of tension.
You know, it's about somebody saying,
"I've come to hate my body
and all it requires in this world."
And with all that little pretty music
going on, you know,
and you start figuring, you know,
"What is that all about?"
And then the whole rest of
the third album is just about that.
Over my shoulder
What do you think I'd see
I didn't know I was going to sing
that song until we were doing the vocals,
and he sang one, and he came back in
and said, "Why don't you sing one?
You know, it's fun to not always sing.
It's fun to kick back and, you know,
play the guitar and just not have
to be the lead voice."
This is a song that
I originally had figured on
featuring myself doing it with a,
you know, spotlight and a gold lam dress.
But then I figured,
"Well, you know, I don't--
I don't know if they're ready
to accept that."
So, we got old Maureen out
and we figured they'll believe her
where they wouldn't believe me.
This'll be our last song for this set.
It's called "After Hours."
If you close the door
The night could last forever
Leave the sunshine out
And say hello to never
I was scared to death.
I'd never sang anything, and I was
really like, "I can't do this, and--"
In fact,
we had to send Sterling out of the room
because he was laughing at me.
I'd never have to see the day again
I told Lou, "I don't wanna sing it live
unless someone requests it,"
'cause I was hoping
no one would ever request it.
And, like, two shows later,
we were in Texas
and someone requested it,
and I got through it, so
And drink a toast to never
When they did play the Boston Tea Party,
and Maureen would come out and sing,
people who weren't even fans
of the band much that night,
juvenile delinquents who just said,
"Who are these guys?
There's no Jimmy Page guitar solo here,
what is this crap?"
All of a sudden, when, you know,
Maureen Tucker would come out,
you know, and would just come out,
just go, "If you close the door,"
and everybody-- she'd get everybody.
Thank you.
Jenny said
When she was just five years old
There was nothing happening at all
Every time she puts on the radio
There was nothing going down at all
Not at all
Then one fine morning she puts on
A New York station
You know, she don't believe
What she heard at all
She started shaking
To that fine, fine music
You know her life was saved
By rock and roll
Despite all the amputation
You know you could just go out
And dance to the rock and roll station
-And it was all right
-It was all right
-Hey, baby, you know it was all right
-It was all right
Like Jenny said
When she was just about five years old
Hey, you know
There's nothing happening at all
Any one thing I could do over again
would be to refuse to do Loaded
until Maureen was, you know, able to play.
Loaded was recorded in April,
I believe, of '70.
And I was pregnant and too fat
to reach the drums,
so I couldn't play.
I was disappointed, 'cause there was
a number of songs on there
that I think really required me.
It was a big difference.
You know, Maureen wasn't in it,
Sterling was--
he stopped coming after a while.
I play a lot of guitar on Loaded.
You know, it must have been
very frustrating for him
to just sit in the control room for hours,
you know,
while some little part was,
you know, thrashed out.
I knew that they were making records,
I knew that-- I never met Doug.
I don't--
But whatever it was,
it wasn't my business anymore.
And Lou made it clear
it wasn't my business.
They were unique in the very beginning.
Every member was an equal contributor
in their own right, you know.
But now they were like
a regular rock and roll band,
and they had a brilliant,
creative person totally in charge.
And Lou had tons of pop songs.
And Lou started to find his own voice.
Pop dissolved high culture.
That's what Lou brought in.
That came bubbling out of Long Island.
Melting the crystalline structure,
which was just what we had had in mind.
Standing on the corner
Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset
Jane is in her vest
And me, I'm in a rock and roll band
Riding in a Stutz Bear Cat, Jim
You know, those were different times
Oh, all the poets
They studied rules of verse
And those ladies
They rolled their eyes
Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane
I just think it's fantastic that
we can play this stuff in public.
I mean, you know, it really turns me on
that it turns them on.
And Jane, she is a clerk
We don't have any point to prove
or any ax to grind,
or just anything to tell anybody else.
And when
When they come home from work
He knew he was talented.
He knew he was a great
guitar player and a great songwriter.
And we weren't getting anywhere
as far as what he hoped to achieve.
And, damn it when is this gonna happen?
But anyone who ever had a heart
Oh, they wouldn't turn around
And break it
And anyone who ever played a part
Oh, they wouldn't turn around
And hate it
Sweet Jane
Sweet Jane
Then came the show at Max's.
He just ground to a halt.
Here comes the ocean
And the waves down by the sea
To think that this is after five years,
they're playing upstairs at Max's
with a way shrunken band.
And the waves, where have they been?
He was growling,
just barely getting through it.
Really not having any fun.
It could just drive me crazy
I'd kind of decided to go back to school.
Get away from all of that sort of thing.
He just didn't wanna tell us, I think.
He didn't run away, but when he told
us was as we walked in the airport.
He finally said, "I'm not going."
And he did tell me the reason he did that
was he was afraid
they'd talk him out of it.
Moe would cry. No.
Moe said it was like being
stabbed in the heart by him.
of the land
That has been down by the sea
I had gone to see them at Max's,
and the set was over,
and Lou came and walked
towards the exit.
I said, "Oh, Lou."
He just kept walking really fast.
And then someone said,
"He just quit the band."
Down by the sea
He just quit. That's it.
That's-- he-- it's over.
Here comes the ocean and the waves
Down by the shore
Here comes the ocean
And the waves
After he left the band, he went
and stayed at his parents' house
for a year and a half or something.
He was trying to get it together,
I guess, his brains.
There'd been, like, a real
problem with management.
I went off to lick my wounds.
My mother had told me
when I was in school, she said,
"You should take typing so you have
a profession to fall back on."
I am a lazy son
I never get things done
Made up mostly of water
And here
Come the waves
Down by the shore
They had shined so brightly
that no space could contain
that amount of light being put out.
You need physics
to describe that band at its height.
Here come the waves
It had entropy within it.
Here come the waves
Here come the waves
Here come the waves
Here come the waves
Here come the waves
Hello? Yeah.
It's Barbara.
Hey, is anything happening?
Don't be silly.
Just get something over here quick.
I'll talk to you later.
Do you like the way the colors go in that?
They're very strange.
They're photo-- photographs or
-No, they're paintings.
-They look nice.
But there's one
of the Velvet Underground in there.
Isn't that amazing?
That is amazing.
Who's this one person?
-That's Sterling.
I missed that one.
Do you still see any of them?
Yeah, I saw Maureen last week.
Yeah, she's a computer programmer now.
-Yeah. She works in a factory.
-What do--
-In more than one sense.
IBM. She's got a kid.
You still in contact with John? John Cale?
Yeah, I heard from him the other day.
What is he--
He's still writing, of course, but
He's working for Island Records and
He's with Island? I didn't realize--
He was with Warner Brothers,
now he's with Island.
It took us a while to get here.
I don't know
Just where I'm going
But I'm going to try
For the kingdom if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
Oh, I tell you
Things aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know
Don't know
I've decided a couple of things
But I
Know that I'm
Gonna try and negate my life
'Cause when the blood begins to flow
When it shoots up the dropper's neck
When I'm closing in on death
You can't help me
Not you guys
Or all you sweet pretty girls
With all your sweet pretty talk
You can all go take a walk
And I guess I just don't know
And I guess that I just don't know
I wish that
I was born a thousand years ago
And I wish that
I'd sailed the darkened seas
On a great, big clipper ship
Goin' from this land here to that
Put on a sailor's suit and cap
Away from the big cities
Where a man cannot be free
Of all of the evil in this town
And of himself and those around
Oh, and I guess I just don't know
Oh, and I guess that I just don't know
And what costume
Shall the poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties?
A hand-me-down dress
From who-knows-where
To all tomorrow's parties
And where will she go
And what shall she do
When midnight comes around?
She'll turn once more
To Sunday's clown
And cry behind the door
And what costume shall
The poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties?
Why silks and linens
Of yesterday's gowns
To all tomorrow's parties?
And what will she do
With Thursday's rags
When Monday comes around?
She'll turn once more
To Sunday's clown
And cry behind the door
And what costume shall
The poor girl wear
To all tomorrow's parties?
For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown
For whom none will go mourning
A blackened shroud
A hand-me-down gown
Of rags and silks, a costume
Fit for one who sits and cries
For all tomorrow's parties