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The Velvet Underground

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Under appreciated in their own time by the general public, the Velvet Underground would go on to become a hugely influential band in rock history. Coming out of New York City's Greenwich Village scene, the band provided a darker flipside to the sunnier music coming from the West Coast in the mid-to-late l960s. Led by Lou Reed, the band contributed a literary adult perspective to rock and roll, exploring such previous taboo topics such as drug addiction, sexual deviancy and paranoia. While too edgy for the mainstream, the band developed a devoted cult following. 

Formed in 1965 by Reed and John Cale, the band was taken under wing by iconic artist Andy Warhol in 1966 and became the house band at Warhol's studio, the Factory. Musically, the band was all over the map, from droning avant-garde improvisation to tight, melodic rock classics on 1970's Loaded, such as "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll." Loaded was the band's fourth and final album, as various tensions drove the band apart. Reed actually quit the band before Loaded was released. 

While none of their albums would chart higher than #171, the Velvet Underground's influence extends well beyond album sales. Noted producer Brian Eno has said that while the Velvet Underground didn't sell very many albums, everyone who bought one went on to form a band. Artists such as David Bowie, the Talking Heads, U2, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Patti Smith and the Sex Pistols have all cited the Velvet Underground as a major influence. Phish covered Loaded in its entirety as the musical costume for their 1998 Halloween show in Las Vegas. 

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"'Rock and Roll' is about me. If I hadn't heard rock and roll on the radio, I would have had no idea there was life on this planet." – Lou Reed 

"I don't believe in dressing up reality. I don't believe in using makeup to make things look smoother." – Lou Reed 

"I cleaned up my act because otherwise I would have kicked the bucket." – Lou Reed 

"We never really fulfilled our potential. With tracks like 'Heroin', 'Venus in Furs', 'All Tomorrows Parties', and 'Sister Ray', we defined a completely new way of working. It was without precedent. Drugs and the fact that no one gave a damn about us meant that we gave it up too soon." – John Cale