The Velvet Underground Captured in Color Concert Footage by Andy Warhol (1967)

The Vel­vet Under­ground, the band with which Lou Reed and John Cale achieved artis­tic and cul­tur­al star­dom under the man­age­ment of Andy Warhol, sure­ly have more lis­ten­ers now than they did when they were active in the 1960s and 70s. But few self-described Vel­vet Under­ground enthu­si­asts ever had the chance to see the group per­form. Not in per­son, any­way: last month we fea­tured col­or footage from their 1969 Viet­nam War protest con­cert, and we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly offered oppor­tu­ni­ties to glimpse them play­ing a 1966 Warhol-filmed show that got bro­ken up by the cops, com­pos­ing “Sun­day Morn­ing,” the open­ing track from that same year’s album The Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico, and reunit­ing in 1972 to do an acoustic set on French tele­vi­sion.

But what would it feel like to actu­al­ly be at a Vel­vet Under­ground con­cert? The 1967 film above pro­vides a view of the band per­form­ing, but even more so of their fans tak­ing it in — not that they had many in those days. But what fans they had turned up over and over again to their shows at a club called The Boston Tea Par­ty, which had opened the same year.

Shot by Warhol, one descrip­tion says, it makes use of “sud­den in-and-out zooms, sweep­ing pan­ning shots, in-cam­era edits that cre­ate sin­gle frame images and bursts of light like paparazzi flash bulbs going off” that “mir­ror the kines­thet­ic expe­ri­ence of the Explod­ing Plas­tic Inevitable” — Warhol’s series of mul­ti­me­dia events put on in the mid-60s — “with its strobe lights, whip dancers, col­or­ful slide shows, mul­ti-screen pro­jec­tions, lib­er­al use of amphet­a­mines, and over­pow­er­ing sound.”

As “one of only two known films with syn­chro­nous sound of the band per­form­ing live,” as well as the only one in col­or, this half-hour of the Vel­vet Under­ground expe­ri­ence cap­tured on 16-mil­lime­ter (which you can also find on the Inter­net Archive) con­sti­tutes an impor­tant and vivid piece of the band’s record­ed his­to­ry. Today, any lis­ten­er who has ever tak­en an inter­est in the Vel­vet Under­ground will have heard the clear-eyed drug song “Hero­in” on The Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico and the epic of debauch­ery “Sis­ter Ray” on White Light/White Heat many times. But these Har­vard kids and oth­ers from more than half a cen­tu­ry ago were get­ting down to them — if that is indeed the term for the behav­ior Warhol has cap­tured here — well before most of today’s Vel­vets-inspired rock­ers were even born.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Vel­vet Under­ground Per­form in Rare Col­or Footage: Scenes from a Viet­nam War Protest Con­cert (1969)

Andy Warhol Explains Why He Decid­ed to Give Up Paint­ing & Man­age the Vel­vet Under­ground Instead (1966)

Watch Footage of the Vel­vet Under­ground Com­pos­ing “Sun­day Morn­ing,” the First Track on Their Sem­i­nal Debut Album The Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico (1966)

A Sym­pho­ny of Sound (1966): Vel­vet Under­ground Impro­vis­es, Warhol Films It, Until the Cops Turn Up

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico Reunite, Play Acoustic Vel­vet Under­ground Songs on French TV, 1972

Hear Lost Acetate Ver­sions of Songs from The Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico (1966)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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