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Velvet Underground Biography


Home > Music > V > Velvet Underground > Biography


Birth Place: New York City, New York, United States
Years Active: 1965-1973, 1990, 1992-1994, 1996, 2009
Genres: Experimental Rock, Art Rock, Blues-rock, Protopunk


The Velvet Underground was an American rock band formed in New York City. First active from 1964 to 1973, their best-known members were Lou Reed and John Cale, who both went on to find success as solo artists. Although experiencing little commercial success while together, the band is often cited by many critics as one of the most important and influential groups of the 1960s. An often-repeated statement, usually attributed to Brian Eno or Peter Buck, is that “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

Andy Warhol managed The Velvet Underground and it was the house band at his studio, the Factory, and his Exploding Plastic Inevitable events. The first line-up was formed in New York City consisting of Reed on vocals and guitar, Cale on several instruments, Sterling Morrison on guitar and Angus MacLise on percussion (later replaced by Maureen Tucker). In March 12, 1967 they released their debut album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” featuring German singer Nico. Their second-best charting album in the United States, it peaked at #171 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and produced two singles, “All Tomorrow's Parties” and “Sunday Morning,” which failed to reach the charts. A commercial flop, the album was produced by Andy Warhol.

The band released their second studio album, 1968’s “White Light/White Heat,” which peaked at #199 on the Billboard 200. The album was more experimental than their first album, featuring a loud and aggressive musical style. The album was produced without Warhol and Nico for the first time.

In March 1969 they released the third studio album “The Velvet Underground,” which peaked at #197 on the Billboard 200. One year later, “Loaded” was released by Atlantic Records, their first album on a major label. Compared with their first releases, “Loaded” was more mainstream and without controversial lyrics. Although the songs were successful and popular on commercial radio, none of its singles, or the album itself, entered any music chart. It was the last The Velvet Underground album to feature Reed.

After Reed’s departure, Doug Yule became the new frontman of The Velvet Underground and in 1973 released together with Willie Alexander (keyboard), Walter Powers (bass guitar) and Maureen Tucker (drums) their fifth and last album, “Squeeze.”

After their break-up, several compilation albums were released, some of which featured outtakes from their previous studio sessions, most notably 1985’s “VU,” which peaked at #85 on the Billboard 200 and #47 on the U.K. Albums chart.