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By Andrew Bell, Cyrus R. Edmonds

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Throughout America and Western Europe the revival of interest in folk music in the late 1950s is now considered one of the rst manifestations of the counter-cultural “protest” movement that peaked in the mid 1960s. It gained 20 The Velvet Underground strength soon after the formal censure by the US Senate in 1954 of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch hunt” against Leftists,19 allowing for a re-emerged interest in “the music of the people” to advance. During the post-war period this ideological regard for “roots” culture had been associated up to then with the Soviet Union and Sovietized Eastern Europe, and while it therefore carried counter-cultural credentials in the United States, it was nevertheless also considered somewhat patriotic in its rediscovery of residual songs – especially ballads – while likewise constructing others in their style.

60 In July 1965 Reed, Cale and Morrison borrowed it to make a demonstration tape (“demo”) of Reed’s songs, including ‘Heroin’ and ‘Venus In Furs’ (the title of a lm by Helizcer). Cale took these tapes to London over the summer in an attempt to get managers and record companies interested61 (Cale says he had a “green card” visa allowing him to work in the United States and travel freely from 2 The Band 31 there, thanks to the invitation from Tanglewood). Instead of nding support, he returned with the latest records of British groups such as The Kinks and The Who, alarmed that they were already putting onto disc elements of the sound world he envisaged for his band, such as loose ensemble playing, textural intensity and sonoral feedback (its rst use on record was in the opening of ‘I Feel Fine’ by The Beatles in 196462).

Along with Angus MacLise they took part in providing improvised sound for a number of experimental lm shows organized by the New York Cinematheque in various locations. Tony Conrad was one such lm-maker interested in sound, and they worked for his colleagues such as Piero Heliczer (1937–93) and Jack Smith (1932–89). As Andy Warhol went to these screenings, it’s certain that he rst encountered Cale and crew there, but in the guise of avant-garde musicians rather than as a rock band. At the end of the year, CBS News would record a small mainstream news feature about a Cinematheque performance of a Heliczer lm, in which the early Velvets could be seen and heard as subjects.

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