Friday, November 20, 2009

NYPL Goes Underground

The Velvet Underground with Nico (far left) and Andy Warhol (left).

Nearly 45 years after their formation, The Velvet Underground, the most influential band to emerge from the New York City rock scene of the 60's, is reuniting at the city's public library. On December 8 three of the group's surviving members, singer-songwriter-guitarist Lou Reed, drummer Maureen Tucker, and bassist Doug Yule will come together for a question and answer session, and appropriately, to promote a new book celebrating the band's history.

LEIGH, Michael. The Velvet Underground.
NY: Macfadden, [1963].

While the library might seem an unlikely place for the reunion of an experimental rock group, The Velvets have always been a bookish band. They chose their name from a mass market paperback documenting the 60's sexual subculture of The Big Apple. A filmmaker friend of Reed's reportedly found a copy of the tome on the street, and the subject matter resonated with the songwriter who had already penned a tune called "Venus In Furs," inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's book of the same name.

KUGELBERG, Johan. The Velvet Underground: New York Art.
NY: Rizzoli, 2009.

In a further indication of The Velvets' love of the written word, the Library event is timed to coincide with the release of a new book detailing the band's history. The Velvet Underground: New York Art is short on text, but according to Raw Magazine: "[contains] more full-color images than a strong acid trip." The book's publisher, Rizzoli, promises: "an astonishing assembly of rare objects and artworks...from never-before-seen photographs of the band's first live show in New York to Andy Warhol's cover and poster designs, Lou Reed's hand written music and lyrics, underground press clippings and controversial reviews, flyers, handbills, and posters."

Since tickets for New York Public Library's evening with The Velvets sold out as soon as they hit the library's website, most of us hungering for a walk on the wild side will have to be content with the heroin-like rush delivered by those beautiful images from Rizzoli. That printed satellite of love will have to supply enough white heat and white light for our pale blue eyes to make up for the fact that we're left waiting for the man.

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