Laura Mayer is an Associate Producer at WNYC.
Before Warhol, before raucous live shows, before they made the pages of Rolling Stone, the Velvet Underground was a scrappy operation, playing their first paying gig in a New Jersey high school 44 years ago today.
Seminal rock icons Lou Reed, Jon Cale, Sterling Morrison, Doug Yule, Maureen Tucker, and the German singer Nico made names for themselves as the avant-garde, proto-punk pop group that eventually became recognized as one of the most influential rock groups of all time. The Velvets garnered cult appeal after Andy Warhol took them into his fold to perform as the house band for his Factory and his Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia events.
As part of the Live from the NYPL series, David Fricke, senior editor and music critic for Rolling Stone, walked Reed, Yule and Tucker through a conversation that travelled from the first $80 they ever made, to the enormous influence that their music still holds on listeners today. (According to the Library, the discussion sold out in fewer than four minutes). The discussion opens with one of The Velvet's most powerful songs, "Heroin."