There are many records out there that are considered iconic, and one in particular is The Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Recorded while on Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour, whose instantly recognisable artwork graces the cover of the album, it was released with little to no fanfare. It was ahead of its time, musically, and dealt with less than savoury topics while their contemporaries were riding high on the flower power of the ‘60s. Critics didn’t know what to make of it, and it was heavily panned at the time.
Initial copies of The Velvet Underground and Nico are highly sought after by collectors across the world, with many considering it a holy grail or white whale. Released by Verve records, mono pressings were on the classic blue with silver text label that featured the large ‘T’ design. The sleeve includes a sticker of the Andy Warhol image on the front that can be peeled back to reveal a flesh-coloured banana. The rear of the sleeve caused controversy due to it containing an image of actor Eric Emerson’s torso, who had recently been arrested for drug possession and insisted on payment. The label recalled copies sent out and placed a large sticker over printed copies. The subsequent pressing had the image airbrushed out, yet some made it into the wild
The mono pressing changes hands for around £2000 but is almost impossible to find in anything less than average condition. Airbrushed stereo pressings that followed shortly after have reached that figure, too, with collectors desperate to own this legendary album. Reappraisal of the album in later years has shown how it informed the indie, alternative, grunge and shoegaze genres and has been established as one of the most influential albums of all time.
This article appeared in issue 30 of Long Live Vinyl magazine, available now
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