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From left to right, The Velvet Underground in its original lineup: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Maureen "Moe" Tucker, Nico, and John Cale, 1967.The Velvet Underground/Facebook
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The Velvet Underground performing at the Dom Nightclub in St. Marks Place, Manhattan, in 1966.The Velvet Underground/Facebook
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The Velvet Underground takes a breather at Andy Warhol's Factory, where they played as the house band.The Velvet Underground/Facebook
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Edie Sedgwick with Andy Warhol, Danny Williams, Lou Reed and Gerard Malanga caught candidly during Andy Warhol's filming of Lupe Velez at the renowned Dakota Building in Manhattan in 1965.Nat Finkelstein/Idea Generation Gallery
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The Velvet Underground was discovered by Andy Warhol at a Greenwich Village club called Café Bizarre. Their residency was comprised of six nights per week, with 40 minutes on stage and 20 minutes off — before repeating their set for hours each night. The Velvet Underground/Facebook
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Maureen Tucker (second from the left) had only performed in public once before joining The Velvet Underground as their drummer.
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Before forming The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed (bottom right) helmed numerous bands like the Primitives. During that time, he became so frustrated with the women's fashion trend of adding ostrich feathers to their outfits that he wrote a parody named "The Ostrich." It opened with the line, "Put your head on the floor and have somebody step on it!"The Velvet Underground/Facebook
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Nico (left) barely spoke English and had rarely if ever performed live before joining The Velvet Underground on stage. The German singer was primarily a model and actress whose real name was Christa Päffgen. Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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John Cale was born in Wales but came to the United States to attend a classical music program at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
After he moved to New York City, he met Lou Reed at a coffee shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Reed was drawn to his hair, which reminded him of The Beatles, and invited Cale to join his band after learning he was a classically trained viola player.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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"He made me a nice cup of coffee out of the hot water tap, and sat me down and started quizzing me as to what I was really doing in New York," recalled Cale about meeting Lou Reed. "There was a certain meeting of the minds there."Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground perform at a dinner for the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry at The Delmonico Hotel in New York City on Jan. 13, 1966.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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Lou Reed's (center) first professional foray into music came in 1964 when he was hired as a staff songwriter for Pickwick Records in New York City. As he recalled it, "We just churned out songs; that's all. Never a hit song. What we were doing was churning out these rip-off albums."Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground during the filming of Piero Heliczer's Venus in Furs in New York City in November 1965. Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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Andy Warhol (center) felt that the addition of Nico (right) would add an air of glamor and allure to the otherwise greasy, leather-clad group of men and Moe Tucker's ruthless drumming.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison recruited Moe Tucker into the group because she was the sister of one of their friends. They later said that the fact that she had a car and an amplifier also worked in her favor.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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A go-go dancer whispers into the ear of Andy Warhol during a performance by The Velvet Underground and Nico on Long Island, New York, 1967.Tim Boxer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground's name came from a paperback book about early 1960s sexual subcultures.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Lou Reed, performs with The Velvet Underground in New York, 1966. He once described his songwriting style and purposefully simplistic: "One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz."Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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Before German model Nico was brought in to sing with The Velvet Underground, she had already appeared in several avant-garde films, including Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) and Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (1966).Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground performing with Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga dancing on stage at the New York Filmmakers' Cinematheque in February 1966.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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In the early days, The Velvet Underground rehearsed and recorded their demos in John Cale's apartment.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Lou Reed went on to have a successful solo career and release the classic 1972 album Transformer.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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From left to right: director Paul Morrissey, Nico, Andy Warhol, and poet Gerard Malanga at a Factory "Freakout" party featuring The Velvet Underground and Nico, 1966.Tim Boxer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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John Cale and Lou Reed on stage at the Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village in 1965. They were fired from the residency within days of their first performance.
"One night we played 'The Black Angel's Death Song" and the owner came up and said, 'If you play that song one more time you're fired!' So we started the next set with it," recalled Sterling Morrison.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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Rock journalist Al Aronowitz befriended the group and got them booked at a New Jersey high school in November 1965. It was their first paying gig and their first time playing with Moe Tucker on drums.
Angus MacLise, their original drummer, quit when he heard about the show, telling the other members that they had sold out by accepting money for playing. They were paid $75.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground pose for a portrait in 1969.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Sterling Morrison (left) fortuitously ran into his former Syracuse University classmate Lou Reed on the subway and formed a band with him and Cale's roommate Angus MacLise. This saw the Primitives transform into the Warlocks, then the Falling Spikes — and ultimately culminate into The Velvet Underground.Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
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From left to right: poet Gerard Malanga, Andy Warhol, and John Cale at the champagne breakfast at The Automat following the January 1966 premiere of Daniel Mann's film Our Man Flint.Bettmann/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground in 1969, shortly before Lou Reed (standing, right) fired John Cale (seated, left).Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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Nico died of a brain hemorrhage on July 18, 1988, after falling off of her bicycle on the Spanish island of Ibiza. She was 49 years old.Tim Boxer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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The band posing with their sophomore effort White Light/White Heat (1968).Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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The Velvet Underground in 1970 — the year Lou Reed (left) quit the band.
The year before, Lou Reed fired John Cole and replaced him with Doug Yule (right). Moe Tucker (front) and Sterling Morrison (back) left the band in 1971. Yule attempted to carry on the band for a couple years without the original members before finally abandoning the project in 1973.Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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The most famous iteration of the band — Reed, Cale, Morrison, and Tucker — temporarily reunited in the 1990s and performed together for the first time since 1968. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.Charlie Gillett Collection/Redferns/Getty Images
33 Vintage Velvet Underground Photos That Capture Their Raucous 1960s Heyday With Andy Warhol
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.
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.
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."
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.