In the historic ferment of Sixties rock, the Velvet Underground were the perfect band in the right city, New York, at a crucial time.
For five years (1965 to 1970) singer-songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed, bassist and viola player John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, with the German vocalist Nico and bassist Doug Yule (who replaced Cale in 1968), broadcast the real life of their home town the sex, drugs and art; the furious street energies, hidden pleasures and desperate romance in an unprecedented pop music of vivid storytelling and transgressive excitement.
On stage and on their four influential studio albums, the Velvets invented the many futures of rock punk, drone, free improvisation, lyric candor in songs and performances that made the group notorious, with the pivotal help of their early manager and mentor, Andy Warhol. Legendary status came later, after the group broke up and Reed and Cale went on to bold prolific solo careers.
Today, the Velvet Underground are the stars they always deserved to be, with a rich and still mysterious story that continues to unfold: in the new visual collection, The Velvet Underground: New York Art, and tonight, in this unprecedented reunion of Reed, Tucker and Yule-the words, music and rhythm of The Velvet Underground.
David Fricke is a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine.
Guitarist Lou Reed co-founded and wrote most of the songs for the New York rock group The Velvet Underground (1965-70), the influential band which recorded such cult favorites as "Heroin," "Sweet Jane," and "Sister Ray." The Velvet Underground, at first associated with Andy Warhol and the singer Nico, was never a huge popular success, but it has been credited with influencing a generation of punk and post-punk rockers in the 1970s and '80s.
During the '70s Reed and David Bowie were among the top acts in "glam rock," a theatrical style of gender-bending rock and roll. Reed's solo hits from the '70s include "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Street Hassle," as well as re-vamped versions of several of his Velvet Underground songs. By the end of the 1990s, Reed was an elder statesman of rock and roll, a mature songwriter with a reputation for thoughtful urban ballads. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Maureen Ann "Moe" Tucker is a musician best known for having been the drummer for the rock group The Velvet Underground.
Tucker first began playing the drums at age 19. When she was asked to join the Velvet Underground, Tucker was working for IBM as a keypunch operator. The band's original percussionist, Angus Maclise, had left in November 1965 because he felt the band sold out when it took a paying gig. Tucker was drafted because Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison remembered her as the younger sister of one of his college friends who played the drums.
Tucker's style of playing was unconventional. She played standing up rather than seated (for easier access to the bass drum, using a simplified drum kit of tom toms, a snare drum and an upturned bass drum, playing with mallets rather than drumsticks. She rarely used cymbals; she claimed that since she felt the purpose of a drummer was simply to "keep time," cymbals were unnecessary for this purpose and drowned out the other instruments.
Douglas Alan Yule is an American musician and singer, most notable for being a member of The Velvet Underground from 1968 to 1973.
When Lou Reed fired bassist John Cale from The Velvet Underground in 1968, Yule (who had befriended the band in 1967) joined as Cale's replacement. He made his first studio appearance on their third album, The Velvet Underground (1969), playing bass and organ, as well as singing lead vocals on the ballad "Candy Says". Yule's contribution to the LP was considerable, and his vocals would later come in handy on the road. When Reed's voice became strained from touring, Yule would sing lead on several songs. While Cale had been a more experimental bass player, Yule was more technically proficient on the bass than Cale and his distinct melodic style suited Reed's desire to move into a more mainstream direction. On the band's fourth album, "Loaded" (1970), his role became even more prominent, singing lead vocals on several songs on the LP ("Who Loves The Sun", "New Age", and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'"), and playing six instruments (including keyboard and drums). Yule's brother, Billy, also joined in on the sessions as a drummer, as Maureen Tucker was pregnant and, therefore, absent for most of the recording.
Lou Reed left The Velvet Underground in 1970. Yule, Tucker and Sterling Morrison decided to continue performing as the Velvet Underground. Yule took over lead vocals and switched main instrument from bass to guitar, and Walter Powers was recruited as the band's new bass guitarist.