The Velvet Underground Record Their Debut Album

The Velvet Underground Record Their Debut Album

The Velvet Underground & Nico was recorded in 1966 but wasn’t released until the following year. Bucking the music industry norm of securing a contract with a record label, Warhol and the Velvets went the independent route—recording it themselves. “The album says, ‘Produced by Andy Warhol,’ ” Sterling Morrison noted. “Well, it was produced in the sense that a movie is produced. He put up the money. We made the album ourselves and then took it around because we knew that no one was going to sign us off the streets. And we didn’t want any A&R department telling us what songs we should record.” Unfortunately, Factory scenester Eric Emerson played a fateful role in torpedoing the Velvet Underground’s (slim) chances of commercial success soon after the release of their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album’s back cover originally featured a shot of the band playing with an image of Emerson’s face from The Chelsea Girls projected prominently in the background. Emerson either needed drug money or was simply broke, so he threatened to sue the record label because he hadn’t signed a photo release. Verve Records pulled the album from record stores and redacted Emerson’s face from the back cover, which was a disaster for the band. “The album vanished from the charts almost immediately in June 1967,” Sterling Morrison lamented, “just when it was about to enter the Top 100. It never returned to the charts.”

From Chapter 15 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


The Factory (original location)
231 E 47th St, New York, NY 10017