There may be no other band in the history of rock more closely associated with New York City than the Lou Reed-led Velvet Undergound, and no group can match the band’s impact (big) versus sales (not big) ratio. The group chronicled the ’60s demi monde, and was a mainstay of the scene at The Factory of Andy Warhol, who lent his name to their first LP. They patented a kind of gritty white noise-rock that has influenced countless punk and indie bands ever since. Their drummer, Maureen “Moe” Tucker, paved the way for many female rockers.
Yet the Velvets also had strong ties to New England. From 1967 until their summer-long “last stand” at Max’s Kansas City in 1970, they did not play in New York, and The Boston Tea Party in effect became their home club. For their first gig there in May 1967, Nico didn’t show up until almost the end of the night, and Lou wouldn’t let her perform. She never played with them again. On stage there in December 1968, Reed called The Tea Party “our favorite place to play in the whole country.” By then John Cale had left the band, after a September 1968 gig at the Tea Party gig, and was replaced by Doug Yule, a member of the Boston-area band The Grass Menagerie, who contributed a new musicality to the group. The VU performed at the Tea Party and at The Woodrose Ballroom in western Massachusetts combined more than at any other venue in the country during that three-year period.
Lou quit the band in August 1970. Doug tried to carry on, but their great unsung guitar player Sterling Morrison soon left too, and he was followed by Moe. The Velvets reunited in 1993 (with Cale, but not Yule) for a European tour, with a video of a performance in Paris released on DVD, but disbanded again before ever playing the States. The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (unjustly, without Yule) shortly after the death of Sterling, who brought a touch of country to this most urban of sounds.
(by Dean Johnson and Steve Nelson)