The Velvet Underground (1965-1973, 1990-)
Lou Reed (vocals)
John Cale (backing vocals, viola, bass, piano)
Sterling Morrison (backing vocals, guitar)
Maureen "Mo" Tucker (drums)
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In the 2003 book Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, Lou Reed was asked to describe the Velvet Underground's part in the multimedia events organized by Andy Warhol. He said, "Andy shows movies and we f--k dogs on stage."
Lou Reed's father was a tax accountant, who raised him with the expectation that he would take over the family business. When little Lou turned out to be more of a handful than they'd bargained for, his parents signed their son over to the Creedmore State Psychiatric Hospital, where Lou Reed suffered eight weeks of electroshock therapy at the age of 17.
Along with his other activities at Syracuse University, Lou Reed hosted his own college radio show.
John Cale's mentor at the University of London was Cornelius Cardew, a pivotal person in introducing avant-garde music to the US. He died in 1981, the victim of a hit-and-run car accident near his London home. At least one colleague has raised the possibility that he was assassinated because of his prominent Marxist-Leninist involvement.
Lou Reed's first act of culture-jamming was to assemble a fictitious group called "The Primitives" which produced one song, a garage-rock stomper called "The Ostrich." It was Reed's satire of hit-inspired dance crazes, with lyrics such as "You bend forward, put your head between your knees. Do the ostrich, do the ostrich."
The original drummer was Angus MacLise, who angrily left the group upon their landing of their first paying gig ($75 at a New Jersey high school). MacLise thought of that as "selling out." Imagine leaving The Velvet Underground for being too commercialized! He later attempted to rejoin the group (after they'd gotten some success) while Lou Reed was hospitalized with hepatitis, but Reed refused to accept him back.
The group gets its name from the 1963 paperback book of the same title. Cover quote on the book: "Here is an incredible book. It will shock and amaze you. But as a documentary on the sexual corruption of our age, it is a must for every thinking adult." It came with an introduction by Louis Berg, M.D. Cover price: sixty cents. Lou Reed called it "the funniest dirty book he'd ever read."
Drummer "Mo" Tucker began drumming at the age of 19, practicing strictly for her own amusement, while her day job at the time was as a keypunch operator for IBM. And what did "Mo" Tucker do after the Velvet Underground? She moved to Georgia to raise her family and worked at... Wal-Mart!
Despite "Mo" Tucker's androgynous appearance, she had a sweet, feminine singing voice and took a leave of absence from the band due to pregnancy.
The defining quote about Velvet Underground is "Only five thousand people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every single one of them started a band." the problem is, nobody seems to know anymore who said it first.
Lou Reed has been romantically linked to the musician, multi-media and performance artist Laurie Anderson since 1995. They married on April 12, 2008 in a quiet ceremony in Boulder, Colorado.
Lou Reed's life was saved by a liver transplant in April 2013. He underwent an emergency procedure in Cleveland after his own liver failed as a result of years of drug usage. "It's as serious as it gets - he was dying," said Laurie Anderson. "You send out two planes, one for the donor, one for the recipient, at the same time. You bring the donor in live and take him off life support. It's a technological feat. I was completely awestruck."
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