The seminal album The Velvet Underground & Nico celebrates the 50th anniversary of its release this week. While some are undecided about its lasting value, many point to the album as a groundbreaker in the world of progressive and psychedelic pop. Writing for Pitchfork, Tyler Wilcox explores it historically with a look at the early days of the Velvets in “The Unlikely Making Of The Velvet Underground & Nico.” He outlines a series of noteworthy events, like Lou Reed cutting a demo of “Heroin” during his days as a writer for hire at Pickwick Studios, as well as Reed bumping into his old classmate Sterling Morrison on the subway and asking him to join his jam sessions with John Cale.
The next fortunate happenstance was Andy Warhol catching a VU performance at New York’s touristy Café Bizarre. Warhol and his collaborator Paul Morrissey suggested the addition of German model Nico to add some glamour to the grungy band, and the rest is banana cover-art history. Wilcox adds lots of rare audio clips to help populate this musical history tour, and it’s a fun read for longtime fans—or even new listeners who want to learn what all the fuss about a 50-year-old album is about.