The Velvet Underground were a step ahead of the entirety of recording bands throughout the world during their time of existence. They eviscerated every kind of music that were considered ‘on the fringe’ and ‘out there’. Lou Reed underwent a period of discontent (and may have never exited from it). It was that discontent and the need to pull the shades away from dark corners that established the bedrock of The Velvet Underground. New York City was the fertile ground that for ideas and alternate lifestyles. It fueled not only Lou Reed, his lyrics, his Velvet Underground band, and his own lifestyle, it also fueled Andy Warhol’s world. The Factory was the creative packets of seeds that sprouted blooms in certain sectors of NYC.
Todd Haynes filmed a stunning walk through the creation and sped-up evolution of The Velvet Underground in his new film, the simply titled The Velvet Underground documentary. Within, a thorough visit with each member of the band sews together the complete blanket of history for the short-lived band. The period that gave birth to the band is already unique. It will likely never be repeated. It was ahead of its time. Even now, 50 years later, the period is unmatched.
There will likely never be as entertaining a documentary as this film. It delivers a close look at what is available on each member, concentrating most heavily on Lou Reed. this documentary gives voice to all members by way of interview segments, voice-overs, and a variety of filmed sequences during the band’s existence. Maureen “Moe” Tucker, the band’s drummer is on hand, as is John Cale. Apart from them, the film is interspersed with interview segments with Lou Reed’s sister, members of the Factory, Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers (who has a dedicated love for the band and who interacted with them), Jackson Browne, and a handful of other people intimate with the band during their time.
The Velvet Underground film is as fresh an understanding of Lou Reed and his band as you will ever see. The archival footage is clean, top-rate, and revealing. The interviews are in-depth. It spends a lot of time on the band’s formation, and works through its demise. You will see Lou go through HS, colleges, and spend a bit of time at Pickwick Records, where Lou Reed worked as a songwriter. You’ll see early music involvement with Reed, Cale and others. You’ll learn how they gathered together, how they created, and how they performed. You will witness their first national tour and gain an insight into how they felt about it, especially once they reached the West Coast. Most importantly, you’ll hear plenty of songs from the band’s catalog. You’ll even enjoy a brief foray into Lou Reed’s post-VU beginnings before the film wraps up its 2 hours of Velvet Underground riches.
The Velvet Underground is available for purchase, and can also be seen on Apple TV + (if you have the service). If you’re a Velvet Underground fan, it’s well worth your time.