While the first Velvet Underground album may only have sold 30,000 copies, everyone who bought one started a band. You know, if you have even a faint acquaintance with rock history, that that well-worn observation comes from producer, artistic innovator, and “non-musician” musician Brian Eno. And whether you could get into it or not, you’ve no doubt heard at least parts of that first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, the 1967 release that brought together such soon-to-be rock luminaries as Lou Reed, John Cale, and the titular German vocalist/Warhol Superstar Nico. The whole album, in fact, appeared under Warhol’s aegis, and like most works associated with him, it tends to push opinions far in one direction or the other. The Velvet Undergound & Nico may still move you to found a rock band — or to scrap your interest in rock altogether — 45 years after its first release.
I refer to the record’s “first release” because it’s recently undergone a couple more, both of which originate in a version never even intended for market. “In 2002, a fellow paid 75 cents at a New York City flea market for a curious acetate recording of the Velvet Underground,” reports Boing Boing’s David Pescovitz. “Turns out, the acetate contained early recorded takes and mixes of songs in different form.” That man had stumbled upon the coveted Scepter Studios acetate version of the album that launched 30,000 bands, bootleg files of which soon began circulating on the net. The acetate received a legitimate release last year as part of The Velvet Underground & Nico’s “45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition,” and you can hear cuts from it, like “Heroin” at the top of this post and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” just above. For Velvet Underground purists, of course, only hearing the acetate disc itself will do. They’ll have a hard time doing so — it last changed hands for $25,200 — but luckily they can now get at least one step closer with its brand new vinyl release.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.