The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by The Velvet Underground and vocal collaborator Nico. It was originally released in March 1967 by Verve Records. Recorded in 1966 during Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia event tour, The Velvet Underground & Nico would gain notoriety for its experimentalist performance sensibilities, as well as its focus on controversial subject matter expressed in many of their songs.
Though a commercial failure upon release, the record has since become one of the most influential and critically acclaimed rock albums in history, appearing at number thirteen on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time as well as being added to the 2006 National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
The Velvet Underground & Nico was recorded with the first professional line-up of The Velvet Underground, including Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen “Moe” Tucker. For this record Nico was included, who would occasionally sing lead with the band at the instigation of their mentor and manager, Andy Warhol. Nico sang lead on three of the album’s tracks—”Femme Fatale”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”—and back-up on “Sunday Morning”. In 1966, as the album was being recorded, this was also the line-up for their live performances as a part of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
The bulk of the songs that would become The Velvet Underground & Nico were recorded in mid-April, 1966, during a four-day stint at Scepter Studios, a decrepit recording studio in New York City. This recording session was financed by Warhol and Columbia Records’ sales executive Norman Dolph, who also acted as an engineer with John Licata. Though exact total cost of the project is unknown, estimates vary from $1500 to $3000.
Soon after recording, Dolph sent an acetate disc of the recordings to Columbia in an attempt to interest them in distributing the album, but they declined, as did Atlantic Records and Elektra Records. Eventually, the MGM Records-owned Verve Records accepted the recordings with the help of Verve staff producer Tom Wilson, who had recently moved from a job at Columbia.
With the affirmation of a label, three of the songs, “I’m Waiting for the Man”, “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin”, were re-recorded in two days at T.T.G. Studios during a stay in Hollywood later in 1966. As the record’s release date was bumped back time after time because of production problems, Wilson also took them into a New York studio in November 1966 to add a final song to the track listing: the single “Sunday Morning”. The production on that song is far more professional and lush, aimed as it was at radio playtime.
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