There are many reasons to think of The Velvet Underground forever in black and white: Nico’s Nordic monotone; John Cale and Moe Tucker’s monochromatic drones; Lou Reed’s perpetual invocation of rock and roll’s black and white 50s origins. White Light/White Heat and its stark black-and-white cover; “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” from their debut; pallid, sun-starved faces and a penchant for black sunglasses; an indelible association with Warhol’s black and white Factory scene….
Then there’s literally the fact that we’ve almost aways seen the band filmed and photographed in black and white, until now. “Yes, you read that right,” announces Dangerous Minds, “previously unseen color film of the Velvet Underground has been discovered!” and boy is it groovy.
Always walking an avant-garde line between proto-punk and psychedelic folk/rock, this footage from 1969 seems to catch the band leaning in the latter direction for Dallas Peace Day, a Vietnam War Protest held on the grounds of the Winfrey Point building overlooking White Rock Lake.
“There were likely between 600 and 3,000 people in attendance,” and the performers that day included Lou Rawls and groups like Velvet Dream, Stone Creek, and Bradley & David. “The VU were in town for a week of shows at a Dallas club.… These were the first concerts they ever played in the south. It’s unknown how the group became involved with Dallas Peace Day.” They were a band in transition. Bassist Doug Yule had recently taken over for the departed John Cale. They were leaving behind their Warhol/Nico/Factory days.
The unearthed film here includes some performance footage, at the top. The band plays “I’m Wating for the Man,” “Beginning to the See the Light,” and “I’m Set Free.” There’s also an interview with Sterling Morrison, who talks about the “tone of anarchy” at New York anti-war rallies and the violence in Chicago the previous year. Above, see some silent B‑roll and below, a little more footage, with some unrelated, overdubbed music. All of this film comes courtesy of the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection.
The footage “was uncovered only by chance and the archive doesn’t know the original motives for recording it, or even know how they came to obtain the film.” It’s a side of the band we don’t often see. While hardcore fans may be familiar with the post-John Cale—and post-Lou Reed—years, most people tend to associate The Velvet Underground with black leather and white… um… substances… not paisley and peace rallies.