Velvet Underground: Deviant Rock At The Paris Philharmonic

The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground | © Billy Name/WikiCommons
Ivana Juchelkova

Named after a low-grade book about sexual deviation, The Velvet Underground stormed the pop culture era of the 1960s with their experimental sound, hypnotic one-chord melodies, and incredible avant-garde energy. Fifty years after releasing their first album, The Velvet Underground still makes a paralyzing impact on its listeners and is one of the “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time,” according to Rolling Stone.

The Velvet Underground

Many may associate the Velvets with Andy Warhol and his iconic banana album cover for The Velvet Underground and Nico, but there is much more to know about this incredible band. Lou Reed, the main figure of the band and the uncontrollable lead guitarist, established The Velvet Underground in 1964 together with John Cale, a classical music student who shared Reed’s interest in experimental music; Sterling Morrison, the guitarist in charge of neutralizing Reed’s neurotic drug-driven guitar riffs; and Maureen Tucker, a minimalist drummer known for playing her drums standing up so she could play the bass drum more easily. Together, the members created an extraordinarily decadent sound full of the acoustic feedback so unique to the band’s pieces.

The Velvet Underground’s music was unquestionably far ahead of its time. With provocative, graphic lyrics that addressed controversial topics such as drugs and sex (the two most important driving forces of the 60s), the band’s lyrics were often described as nihilistic or weird. Even though they enjoyed little success in their generation, they are now considered one of the most influential rock bands of the era. The Velvets might be weird, but they also have an incredible talent of getting inside your head, with Lou Reed’s stone-cold emotionless voice, pulsing electric sound and an omnipresent mysterious aura that makes the Velvets so unique and controversial.

One of the things that makes the Velvets’ music so unusual is Reed’s raw descriptive lyrical style. The way he approaches matters such as drugs and sexuality is remarkably exposed, genuine and realistic. Inspired by authors like William S. Burroughs, Reed uncovers the experience of a drug addict in an incredibly explicit and honest style in one of the most famous Velvet Underground songs, ‘Heroin.’ The surreal ‘Venus in Furs’ takes the listener into the land of sadomasochism. And even such dreamy and gentle songs like ‘Sunday Morning’ describe paranoia taking over the mind.

Velvet Underground Album Cover, 1967

There is no doubt that the collaboration between The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol was crucial for the band’s fame at that time. Warhol’s pop art banana design made the Velvets’ album cover probably the most memorable album cover of the year. Despite lacking experience in managing a rock band, Warhol became the Velvet’s manager, and the band became a part of Andy’s futuristic multimedia show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable – a mix of music, visual projections, and dance. The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, featuring Velvet Underground music, has been reincarnated (or at least, a piece of it) at the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Musée D’Art Moderne in Paris.

Warhol was also the one who introduced Nico to the band and made her part of their first album. Born Christa Päffgen, Nico was a German actress and model and a member of Andy Warhol’s clique of personalities, often present at Warhol’s parties at his studio, The Factory. Nico was brought to work on the debut album at Warhol’s request, to add a little more charm to the band, in spite of English not being her mother tongue and no previous experience performing in this language. She rejoined Lou Reed and John Cale in 1972 for a legendary show in Paris’ Le Bataclan, which was later released as a live album, Le Bataclan ’72.

Despite the conflicts between Lou Reed and John Cale (rising from Reed’s frustration about the lack of the Velvets’ progress and success), the two were brought together again by a heartbreaking event. Following the death of Andy Warhol, the two founding members of The Velvet Underground got together and created a tribute album called Songs for Drella – Drella used to be Warhol’s nickname, combining the words ‘Dracula’ and ‘Cinderella.’ The 90s were a decade of reunions for the Velvets. The band returned to Paris in 1993 and performed in L’Olympia concert hall after the original members reunited for their last European tour, this time without Nico, who passed away shortly after Andy Warhol.

The Velvet Underground

To celebrate the 50th anniversary release of the Velvet’s remarkable debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, the Philharmonie de Paris is hosting an exhibition to remember not only the Velvets but also the era which made the creation of the band possible and shaped the evolution of their music. The exhibition runs from March 30th to August 21st, 2016, with a special opening concert by John Cales, re-making the debut album with secret guests on April 3, 2016.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article