Five Andy Warhol Clues Hidden In Velvet Underground’s Hits
When the Velvet Underground burst onto the scene in the mid-1960s, they were unlike anything else in rock music. Their gritty, experimental sound was a perfect match for the underground art scene that was thriving in New York City at the time, and their association with the legendary artist and provocateur Andy Warhol only added to their mystique.
What many fans don’t know is that the band’s close association with Andy Warhol went beyond just having him produce their debut album and creating their iconic banana cover art. In fact, Warhol’s fingerprints can be found all over the Velvet Underground’s music, from hidden references in their lyrics to the members of his Factory inspiring the band’s songs. Here are five clues that reveal the deep connection between Warhol and the Velvet Underground.
5. ‘Femme Fatale’ Was Inspired By Edie Sedgwick, A Member Of Andy Warhol’s Factory
A femme fatale is a highly seductive woman who will leave every man in her life with a devastating effect. In this song’s case, the femme fatale is actress Edie Sedgwick, a member of Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd. Warhol and Lou Reed were very close as the artist was the band’s manager, and he specifically asked Reed to write this song for Edie to portray her as a heartbreaker. Although Edie Sedgwick had an impressive family tree, she couldn’t find fame outside of Warhol’s Factory and died from an overdose at the age of 28.
4. ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Was Written About Andy Warhol And The Factory
This song is also a product of the close friendship between Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. Reed wrote ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ after observing Andy Warhol and the intriguing members of his Factory, which was the gathering place for artists, writers, musicians, and underground celebrities. ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ was one of the three songs on ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ that Nico recorded vocals on, and was reportedly Warhol’s favorite Velvet Underground song for having her sing the lead vocals.
3. Lou Reed Wrote ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ To Make Nico Feel Good About Herself
Reportedly, Nico approached Lou Reed with the line ‘I’ll be your mirror’ in 1965 after a show, and Reed wrote every word of the song for her. Nico started working with the Velvet Underground after Andy Warhol suggested including her as a female vocalist, and she sang the lead vocals for three of their songs. According to guitarist Sterling Morrison, the band put so much pressure on Nico for her loud and aggressive vocals that she burst into tears while recording the song, and this version was their last take. However, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ is still a favorite of Lou Reed.
2. Andy Warhol Introduced ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ To David Bowie
Written about a trip to buy drugs from a drug dealer, ‘I’m Waiting For A Man’ was first covered by David Bowie before the Velvet Underground’s album was released in America. One of Bowie’s friends worked with Andy Warhol at The Factory, and Warhol gave him the album. Bowie’s friend then gave the record to him, saying that Bowie might be interested in the band’s sound. After listening to Velvet Underground, Bowie was in awe. The next day, he went to a rehearsal and learned the song to play during shows. So, Warhol unintentionally introduced the song to David Bowie and helped the band reach a newer audience.
1. Andy Warhol Suggested Lou Reed Write ‘Sunday Morning’
Lou Reed wrote ‘Sunday Morning’ one Sunday morning after Andy Warhol asked him to write a song about the paranoid effects of drugs wearing off. Reed originally intended for Nico to sing the lead vocals on ‘Sunday Morning’ as he wrote the song for her. However, he later changed his mind and impersonated Nico himself. In the end, ‘Sunday Morning’ became a Velvet Underground hit that was covered by a great number of artists following the album’s release.
Bonus Fact: Andy Warhol’s Freudian Signal
As Velvet Underground’s manager and artistic director, Andy Warhol took the responsibility of creating ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’s album cover. The original vinyl featured a banana artwork on the cover, but there was a little hidden trick. When the banana sticker was peeled off, a pink banana underneath was revealed. As the banana was used as sexual imagery reflecting the provocative themes of the album, this hidden pink banana was conceived as a Freudian signal that Warhol tried to convey.