lou reed & andy warhol

VU & Nico Femme Fatale

1967 was a very busy time for Andy Warhol. It was the year he met Joe Dallesandro, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Andrea Feldman, Geraldine Smith and Patti D’Arbanville, who would all appear in his films (Trash, Heat, Flesh, etc), was credited as the producer of the brilliant Velvet Underground and Nico album (so many albums are labeled ‘seminal’ these days but if ever there was a truly seminal album this is it), and that the Velvet Underground took part in the Exploding Plastic Inevitable for the last time, before Lou Reed fired Warhol and Nico. All of the above were Max’s Kansas City regulars

Without a Max’s Kansas City there would probably never have been a Velvet Underground. It was there that they got their start playing as the house band, and it was also there that they would play their final live performance with Reed, immortalized on their Live at Max’s Kansas City record

Reed & Cale Waiting For My Man

Andy Warhol began managing the band in ’65 and they were the house band at his Factory studio, as well as turning up frequently in his films. Lou Reed admitted that the only reason the band got noticed at the start of their career was because of its association with the pop artist

I’m Not a Young Man Anymore
from 13 most Beautiful Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests

“Warhol was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Reed said in a public question-and-answer session. “Without him, [the Velvet Underground was] kind of inconceivable. When they hired us to make a record, it wasn’t because of us, it was because of him. They didn’t know us – they thought he was the lead guitarist or something”

Jayne County, Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling

Andy Warhol’s “superstars” turn up often in Lou Reed’s lyrics. Reed hung around at The Factory and was greatly inspired by some of the characters who were a fixture of the notorious New York studio. His most famous hit, Walk on the Wild Side, lists some of the best known of the Warhol set: Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn
The songs title is swiped from the Nelson Algren novel, but the people who fill it were all from Reed’s own experiences; Warhol’s superstar parade
“If I retire now,” Reed has said, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is the one I’d want to be known by. That’s my masterpiece. That’s the one that’ll make them forget ‘Heroin’.

The inclusion of former Hungarian model/actress Nico in the Velvet Underground was Warhol’s idea – he felt the band were lacking something and that she was the answer – much to the rest of the band’s chagrin. After the release of their debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, this eventually led to the pop artist and the band going their seperate ways. But there were other fractious relationships within the group; both Reed and John Cale saw themselves as ‘the star’ in the band and their large egos meant that one of them was going to have to go

“Everybody wanted to be the star. Of course Lou always was. But the newspapers came to me all the time. That’s how I got fired – he couldn’t take that anymore. He fired me” – Nico 

John Cale talks about the relationship between Lou and Nico 

Their second album, White Light/White Heat, without Nico, was released in ’67. The following year Reed demanded Cale’s exit from the band. The third album, self-titled, came out in ’69, with Doug Yule as Cale’s replacement, and  their final album with Reed, Loaded, came out in 1970 (Reed subsequently disowned it – despite the fact it included his classic songs Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll)

The Velvets sputtered on without their songwriter for a while but without Reed they were nothing (see the album Squeeze from ’73 to see just how much he was missed) and it was towards a solo career Lou now set his sites. Reportedly paranoid and depressed due to his excessive use of amphetamines, Lou took some time out, returning to live with his parents on Long Island while he planned his next move
The results of hours at the typewriter after his sloughing off of Andy, Nico, John and the rest of the band was his 1972 debut solo effort which Rolling Stone called “Almost perfect”. While that was not the universal opinion of the music rags – in truth it was far from perfect, though contained the brilliant I Can’t Stand It and Lisa Says – it was a harbinger of the great things to come from this undisputed master song craftsman, and the subsequent album, Transformer, is an undoubted masterpiece – a miraculous piece of work and the one that made him a household name

Andy, William Burroughs & Nico 

lou reed & john cale – songs for drella

It was at Andy Warhol’s favourite hang out, Max’s Kansas City, that the Velvet Underground started, playing as the house band, and when Andy Warhol began managing the band in 1965 they were the house band at his Factory studio as well. Lou Reed has said that the only reason the band got noticed at the start of their career was because of its association with the pop artist

Reed & Cale Waiting For My Man

Warhol was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Reed told an audience at the New York Public Library, December 10, 2009. “Without him, [the Velvet Underground was] kind of inconceivable. When they hired us to make a record, it wasn’t because of us, it was because of him. They didn’t know us – they thought he was the lead guitarist or something”

‘How did he feel when he first met Warhol?
“I thought I had gone to heaven,” he replies, sounding almost cheery for a moment. “I couldn’t have been in a righter place at a righter time. You know, without Andy, I probably wouldn’t have a career. He was right there saying what you do – everything that you do – is fine; don’t let anybody change it and keep it exactly the way it is. And that was Andy Warhol saying that, so that was enough for me, and it’s been enough for me up to this day. Andy said it was OK, so it was’ – Lou Reed in the Jewish Chronicle

“It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new” – John Cale

Andy Warhol, the celebrity-obsessed voyeur, the pale weirdo in the pale wig, who raised up the disposable to the highest art form through his repetitions of mass-produced brand images – the Campbell’s soup cans and the Coca-Cola bottles – celebrating the mundane and the banal, was also behind one of the most influential bands of all time

In 1968, Andy Warhol moved his studio and superstar hangout, The Factory, from East 47th Street to 33 Union Square West, across the street from Max’s Kansas City. Warhol decided to make the Back Room at Max’s his home away from home. A place of respite for himself and his superstars. Warhol made famous the completely neglected Back Room which was known for its Blood Red ambiance: Max’s Back Room was his very own social club where he and his cohorts created a notorious social scene that came to define the 70’s – Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Brian Jones and Mick Jagger would all come by. “It was exciting but anonymous. Jim Morrison could gently nod into oblivion behind his shades, sitting with Nico without anybody asking for autographs. Even Janis Joplin was treated like a lady.” said Warhol cohort Glenn O’Brien
In one corner was the round table, a black vinyl banquette – like the Round Table at Camelot –  that ruled the roost. A big Dan Flavin fluorescent sculpture bathed the room in a reddish light. This is where Andy sat. It become a safe-haven for the artists, musicians, addicts, models and ‘VIP’s’

 “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it” – AW

The Factory was the star his ‘superstars’ orbited: artists, models, musicians, rich kids, street kids, transvestites and super-groupies all basked in Andy’s light. Most of them melted away once Andy’s interest in them had waned. A few went on to shine in their own right, like Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico. The Velvet Underground toured with Warhol’s mixed media show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which opened in early 1966. Films would be projected all at once, running all over the walls and ceiling. Sometimes the Velvets would all wear white so that they reflected the film images and became invisible onstage. Warhol produced the Velvet Underground’s first historic album
“Andy had begun to expand his activities from paintings and lithographs to include very peculiar movies and an even stranger rock band, the Velvet Underground. Besides vocals by Lou Reed and Nico, the band features a whip dance by Gerard Malanga and a fantastic light show” – Leee Black Childers

Andy Warhol Screen Test: No 1 Nico

VU & Nico @ the Factory

Lou Reed drew on the Factory for his subject matter: the Chelsea Girls were all part of Warhol’s entourage, Candy Says is about Candy Darling and Walk On The Wild Side is about various superstars – Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, Joe Dallesandro, Jackie Curtis and Joe Campbell (Sugar Plum Fairy). Lou identified with them, and he and Andy were close. All Tomorrow’s Parties is about the never-ending NY party invitations for Andy’s people. The Velvet Underground used the Factory as a place to rehearse

Nico, a beautiful German model, was brought in by Warhol to enhance the stage presence of the Velvets. Reed, as front man, was considered too ‘seedy’ by record execs. “Andy said we needed a chanteuse because none of us were good looking enough,” Reed said about Nico’s involvement with the group. Reed and Nico had a tempestuous professional relationship which produced some of the Velvets’ most beautiful music, yet resulted in her leaving the group after their debut album was released

Andy & Lou

In 1990 Lou Reed and John Cale collaborated on some songs about their old friend, and recorded the album Songs For Drella, the first project they had undertaken together for twenty years. It tells the story of Andy Warhol’s life

Reed and Cale knew each other from New York. Lou was there working for Pickwick records, writing songs and trying for a hit record, which he scored with The Ostrich. Cale, who had worked with La Monte Young (another Warhol friend), was hired for the record’s touring band. This led to the them writing together. Reed’s song-writing skills and Cale’s avant-garde creativity worked well together, so well that the powerful classic Heroin was the end result of one session. Cale’s droning viola and Reed’s half-spoken monotone were a new kind of music. This was strong stuff, and, disappointingly for Cale he thought it could have been even stronger. He was mad with Lou for changing the opening line from “I know just where I’m going” to “I don’t know just where I’m going,” and called it a MOR move

‘I was really excited by the amount of power just two people could do without needing drums. When we started work I was always, in the back of my mind, wondering, “Where the hell does the backbeat go?” And by the time we finished it I was saying, “Thank God we don’t have one!” [Reed laughs] The way it’s going to be at BAM is exactly the same. We’re going to maintain that hard-edged, clear-eyed image of it – simple and very hard’ – John Cale to Musician magazine

Slip Away/It Wasn’t Me/I Believe

“They said the Factory must change and slowly slip away
But if I have to live in fear, where will I get my ideas
With all those crazy people gone, will I slowly slip away

Still there’s no more Billy Name, and Ondine is not the same
Wonton and the Turtle gone
Slowly slip away … slowly slip away
If I close the Factory door and don’t see those people anymore
If I give in to infamy … I’ll slowly slip away”

Lou Reed & John Cale Songs for Drella 1990. Lou Reed (vocals, guitar), John Cale (vocals, keyboards, viola)

  1. Smalltown
  2. Open House
  3. Style It Takes
  4. Work
  5. Trouble with Classicists
  6. Starlight
  7. Faces and Names
  8. Images
  9. Slip Away (A Warning)
  10. It Wasn’t Me
  11. I Believe
  12. Nobody But You
  13. A Dream
  14. Forever Changed
  15. Hello It’s Me

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I Believe

Warhol had an influence on popular music that gets forgotten behind the art work and everything else. At the peak of the New York punk and New Wave scene, Blondie, Talking Heads and other groups all frequented the Factory. Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Jonathan Richman, the B52s, Devo; all were influenced by Andy Warhol. Punk, like Warhol, embraced everything that cultured people detested: plastic, junk food, B-movies, TV…

In ’68 Andy had moved his superstar social club to 33 Union Sq West, across the street from Max’s Kansas City. The Back Room at Max’s became Andy’s second home. His monthly bills there were said to be $3,000, but Debbie Harry, who was a waitress there at the time, says the Warhol crowd were always rude and never left a tip