33 Vintage Velvet Underground Photos That Capture Their Raucous 1960s Heyday With Andy Warhol

Published October 16, 2021
Updated October 20, 2021

As the house band at Andy Warhol's Factory, The Velvet Underground played at some of New York City's wildest and most debauched parties, all while changing the sound of rock forever.

Nico With The Velvet Underground In 1967
The Velvet Underground House Band At Dom Nightclub On St Marks In 1966
The Velvet Underground At Warhol Factory At 33 Union Square West In 1968 Billy Name Via Vu Facebook
The Velvet Underground And Andy Warhol With Edie Sedgwick In 1965
33 Vintage Velvet Underground Photos That Capture Their Raucous 1960s Heyday With Andy Warhol
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Formed in 1964, The Velvet Underground was a wild and untamed rock band that pioneered new genres and artforms. The New York City quartet emerged in stark contrast to the euphoric hippie ballads emanating from California — and was determined to provide the 1960s counterculture with honest and lurid explorations of drug use and sex.

With poetic lyrics and experimental orchestrations, The Velvet Underground transported millions of listeners to dingy east coast dive bars and raucous art house parties for the very first time. With none other than Andy Warhol as their manager, they became his house band at "The Factory" — and a staple of New York's nascent pop art scene.

And throughout it all, photographers were there to capture the avant-garde mood. These 33 vintage photos of The Velvet Underground chronicle the band's daring early heyday and the essence of New York cool.

The Velvet Underground's Wild Side

Early on, The Velvet Underground went through several different names before settling. The final inspiration revealingly came from the title of a paperback book about the many sexual subcultures in the early 1960s. Ultimately, the group would have to endure numerous changes regarding its band members, as well.

In its prime, the principal members included singer and guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, Sterling Morrison on bass, and percussionist Maureen "Moe" Tucker, who had replaced drummer Angus MacLise a mere eight months after the group had formed.

Then, in 1969, Doug Yule was brought in to replace Cage for the final two albums of the original incarnation of the band. Yule would release a final album using The Velvet Underground name in 1973, after Reed, Morrison, and Tucker had all departed.

The Velvet Underground And Nico

Wikimedia CommonsThe Velvet Underground and Nico in 1967. Clockwise from top left: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Maureen Tucker, and Nico.

Musically inclined since his childhood on Long Island, Reed recorded his first songs as a teenager. Cale, born in Wales, was a classically trained viola player. While Morrison would sing backup vocals and play the guitar. For Tucker, her first gig as the band's drummer occurred on Nov. 11, 1965 — with Reed singing "Heroin" at a New Jersey high school.

"We were not user friendly at all," recalled Tucker. "Anybody listening to a bass guitar and a regular guitar coming out of the same amp, it couldn't have been a really great listening experience. I mean, we went through loudspeakers faster than shoes."

With a regular spot at the Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village, The Velvet Underground was discovered by pop-art legend Andy Warhol. As their newfound patron and official manager, Warhol launched the group to new heights as part of the audioscape of New York's art scene.

"The band had a sense of 'it's us against the world,'" Cale said. "We were gonna do this. Then Andy came along and we felt protected, just like all the other people that were at the Factory, they felt protected. They were misfits, very creative misfits, and they had somewhere to work. And there was a lot of work going on there."

Warhol even introduced them to Nico, a German model and chanteuse with whom they recorded their 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Their dingy and experimental sound only became more reckless with 1968's White Light/White Heat before being significantly tamed on The Velvet Underground in 1969.

By then, however, the band was already falling apart.

The Legacy Of The Velvet Underground

While The Velvet Underground became Warhol's house band and went on successful tours with popular albums, the Factory days didn't last long. In 1967, Reed was adamant about removing Warhol as the band's manager. When Warhol left, Nico followed.

Velvet Underground At Delmonico Hotel

Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty ImagesFrom dive bars to The Delmonico Hotel, pictured here, The Velvet Underground went from beer-soaked stages to high-society dinners.

A year later, Reed fired Cale too, who he felt was hindering the band's commercial potential with his desire to push the group in even more experimental directions.

Reed ultimately quit in 1970 and arguably produced his most remarkable work with Transformer in 1972 — which was co-produced by David Bowie. Cale went on to work with Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, and Patti Smith.

Morrison and Tucker quit shortly after their bandmates left. Tucker moved to Phoenix and played drums with local acts. Morrison became a Medieval literature instructor at the University of Texas.

Andy Warhol died in 1987, and Nico died of a brain hemorrhage the following year. The band reunited in 1990 to perform for the first time since 1968. They even recorded a live album together in 1993.

And even though none of their albums ever achieved commercial success while together, The Velvet Underground was a fundamental part of New York City's 1960's counterculture scene and left a lasting influence that paved the way for the evolution of glam and punk rock in the decades that followed.

"I was talking to Lou Reed the other day, and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold only 30,000 copies in its first five years," British glam rocker Brian Eno told an interviewer in 1982.

"Yet, that was an enormously important record for so many people. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."


After learning about The Velvet Underground, take a look at 41 terrifying photos of 1970s New York. Next, check out 44 classic photos of 1990s hip-hop and its emerging icons.

author
Marco Margaritoff
author
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
editor
Adam Farley
editor
Adam Farley is an Assistant Editor at All That's Interesting. He was previously content director of ShamrockGift.com and deputy editor of Irish America magazine. He holds an M.A. from New York University and a B.A. from the University of Washington.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "33 Vintage Velvet Underground Photos That Capture Their Raucous 1960s Heyday With Andy Warhol." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 16, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/the-velvet-underground-pictures. Accessed May 21, 2024.