Velvet Underground Doctor Finds Out Why Lou Reed Axed Andy Warhol?

Before the Velvet Underground landed under Andy Warhol’s wing, its members were misfits who pleaded with West Village tourist dives, alienated spectators and were fired for being too abrasive. “some of the [Velvets, led by Lou Reed] Martha Morrison, wife of guitarist Sterling Morrison, says in a new documentary directed by Todd Haynes, played with her back to the crowd, in “The Velvet Underground,” which airs on Apple TV+ and hits theaters Friday. Is. “He had this off-putting aura. They were scary.”

Barbara Rubin, a drug girl from Queens who had Warhol’s ear, was infatuated. He told Warhol in 1965 that he needed to see the Velvet Underground. The group was invited to a candid audition at Warhol’s factory. Billy Nam, a photographer there, recalls in Doc how it happened: “They were all dressed in black, they started playing ‘heroin’, we bowed out.”

Andy Warhol with Lou Reed at Studio 54 in 1977.
Andy Warhol (left) with Lou Reed at Studio 54 in 1977, a decade after the release of Velvet Underground’s debut album and Warhol’s firing by Reed.
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In short, Warhol became the manager of the group. But his relationship with the band eventually angered Reid, despite Warhol giving him cool gigs, promotions, and a record deal. Warhol had an incredible work ethic and showed it in an angry Reed. “Every day Andy [arrived to the Factory] Next to me, and he would ask how many songs I wrote that day,” Reid says in the documentary. “I’ll tell him 10. He’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re too lazy. You should have written 15.’ “

Warhol’s influence on the band was huge and immediate. “Andy made the band visible in every conceivable way,” Haynes told The Post. “It gave them legitimacy and visual impact. He described the band’s music as rough and raw as in their films. Their filmmaking was personified by the Velvets.”

While Warhol gave her some odd gigs—including entertainment for a psychotherapeutic-society annual dinner, which was covered by the New York Times; A shrink there compared the band to “an LSD experience” – they even gave them a constant stand as part of their Exploding Plastic Invitables at the Dome, a former Polish wedding hall on St. Mark’s Place. That show became all the rage and made the Velvet Underground famous. Walter Cronkite, Jackie Kennedy and Rudolf Nureyev all flock to town to take on the pop artist’s newfound quest.

Warhol's mob dug the Velvet Underground.
Warhol’s mob dug the Velvet Underground.

Further signs of a power struggle between Reid and Warhol emerged during that gig. As part of the act, Rubin projected polka dots onto Reed; When asked why he put up with the Dots, Reid tiredly replied to future Ramones manager Danny Fields, “It’s what Andy wants.”

Warhol also pushed the idea of ​​Nico, a beautiful Teutonic blonde who stole the scenes in “La Dolce Vita”, joining the band to sing some of Reed’s songs. “poly [Morrissey, the filmmaker who collaborated with Warhol] Andy begins to believe that Lou was not such a good looking person. You had to put a beautiful girl there, ”remembers the name in the doctor. “Lou had to beg Andy.”

Reed relented and the idea turned out to be a good one. “You realized it,” says Velvets co-founder John Kale in the documentary, “[Warhol’s] The eye for hype and the idea of ​​this white iceberg next to all of us dressed in black. “

Andy Warhol (right) had to beg Lou Reed to let Nico (left) join the band.
Andy Warhol (third from left) had to beg Lou Reed to let Nico (second from left) join the band.
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But Nico himself was not so easily convinced to go with a seemingly green concept presented by Warhol. “Andy wanted him to sing inside a Plexiglas box,” Jackson Browne, who dated Nico and played guitar with him, says in the documentary. “But Nico didn’t have it.”

Neither, apparently, was Reed, who, as the black note in Doctor Who, “got mad and fired Andy” in 1967. “Andy made the first record that he was there, breathing, in the studio,” Reid says, although he did admit that “his presence meant we could record without change.”

After Andy Warhol was fired, The Velvet Underground (Lou Reid, second from left) and John Cale were ousted.
Andy Warhol was fired after The Velvet Underground (including Lou Reed, second from left) and John Cale were ousted.
Michael Ochs Archives

Seeking a reason for parting – beyond everything else, Warhol designed one of the iconic album covers of all time, depicting a peelable banana, for the group’s debut – a Rolling Stone reporter told Reed asked if Warhol was tired of Velvet. Reed replied, “No. Andy goes through things but we do. He sat down and talked to me. ‘You have to decide what you want to do. Do you want to just keep playing museums and art festivals? Or do you want to start moving into other areas? Lu, don’t you think you should think about it?’ So I thought about it and I fired it.”

The artist, certainly surprised that his heart had broken so badly, responded by calling Reed a “rat.” Reed and others already employed more cutting put-downs for Warhol: Drella, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella.

Lou Reed (above) hands the ax to Andy Warhol.
Lou Reed (above) hands the ax to Andy Warhol.

Warhol’s absence was likely felt during the recording sessions for the band’s loud and noisy second album. The production of “White Light/White Heat” was appropriate there and such was the racket that the engineer told the group, “I don’t need to hear this. I’ll put it on the record. When you’re done, come and get me.” ” (After the album’s release, Reid also kicked Kale out of the band.)

Apparently, Warhol exceeded his limits – as Haynes put it, the Velvets “became a performer for the Andy Warhol Circus Show” – and probably came too much as a member of the band. Perhaps this was what really tickled the naturally occurring mercury reed. “People thought Andy was our lead guitarist,” Reid said in the doc, before secretly adding, “Things got tough when we lost our great cowboy.”


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