Velvet Underground reunites -- to talk

NEW YORK Wed Dec 9, 2009 5:47pm EST

U.S. singer Lou Reed performs during a concert in Berlin, June 26, 2007. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

U.S. singer Lou Reed performs during a concert in Berlin, June 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rock band Velvet Underground was celebrated for its legendary influence in fusing art and music in New York of the 1960s with a rare public reunion of three of the surviving members at the New York Public Library.

The program "The Art and Soul of The Velvet Underground" on Tuesday night brought together Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule to talk about the band's enduring legacy and its association with late pop artist Andy Warhol.

The band has long been recognized as a major musical influence on punk and art rock, as reflected in a quote often attributed to Brian Eno that, "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."

Authenticity in their music was the band's ultimate goal, Reed said. "The band had a $10 fine if you played a blues lick, because it wasn't legit," he told the sold-out audience.

Yule, who replaced original Velvet Underground member John Cale in 1968, was a contributor along with Reed and Tucker to the recently published book "The Velvet Underground: New York Art," a compilation of art, photographs and memorabilia from the band's singular experience between 1965 and 1970.

Cale, who played bass and viola, was not present.

Guitarist Sterling Morrison, who knew Reed at Syracuse University and joined with him and Cale when Velvet Underground was forming, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1995.

His widow, Martha, and son Thomas were in the audience, and she told Reuters that material from Morrison's own memorabilia collection was not included in the book.

German model Nico, who appeared in Warhol films and sang on Velvet Underground's Warhol-produced debut album, "The Velvet Underground and Nico," died in 1988 after a bicycle accident on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

"Andy said we needed a chanteuse because none of us were good looking enough," Reed joked about Nico's involvement with the group.

Warhol was praised for his persistence in shielding the band from the meddling of record companies and executives.

"Andy was like the guard dog. Don't let them change it. That was the unifying principle," Reed said.

The band was famously part of Warhol's "Exploding Plastic Inevitable" multimedia programs at his Factory in Manhattan.

Yule said when he joined he was not aware of all the strange characters populating Velvet Underground songs, many of whom were fashioned directly or indirectly from people involved at the Factory. "I was really naive," Yule said.

He added that he only met Warhol once, at a party at the Factory. "That was kind of like being on acid. Eyes wide open," he said.

(Reporting by Robert Gibbons; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Bob Tourtellotte)

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