Velvet Underground Acetate Breaks Record
December 5, 2006 9:17 AM   Subscribe

What you have purchased for less than the price of a cup of coffee is arguably one of the most important "lost" music recordings out there. Record collector Warren Hill paid 75 cents at a yard sale in Chelsea, New York for an acetate in a plain cardboard sleeve. After some research, Hill's friends confirmed that the acetate disc, recorded by sound engineer Norman Dolph (who also wrote Reunion's "Life Is A Rock But The Radio Rolled Me"), was the third recording ever made by the Velvet Underground and the first album they ever did. A demo rejected by Columbia Records, the acetate is now up for auction on EBay, where the high bid is $124,640.50 and climbing, already breaking records as the most expensive LP ever sold at auction. (Bonus: see a post from a teenage eyewitness to the VU's 1966 session that produced this acetate.)
posted by jonp72 (32 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love stories like this. Thanks for posting.
posted by ericb at 9:24 AM on December 5, 2006


Warren Hill was on the radio this morning in Montreal (CBC Radio 1), and he discussed (more like alluded to) previous attempts to sell the record. He's not getting his hopes up. Apparently, he met with lawyers for the Velvet Underground a few years ago--to discuss what, I'm not sure. In any event, we'll see what it finally sells for, and if he actually gets the money, this time.
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2006


"lawyers for The Velvet Underground"

Funniest thing I've read all day (still have not received toay's "The Fiver") from The Guardian online.
posted by wfc123 at 9:36 AM on December 5, 2006


I don't think I would have offered this on an eBay public auction. Most of those bids are joke bids. Perhaps I would have identified serious vinyl collectors (via forums, etc.) and then offered it via a eBay private auction.
posted by spock at 9:37 AM on December 5, 2006


Wow, that's a great story. Part of me can't help but wonder... did he rip it to mp3? Or even listen to it?
posted by boo_radley at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2006


boo - if you read the ebay posting you'll see that they made a high quality digital backup
posted by matt_od at 9:54 AM on December 5, 2006


Gotta wonder about some of those eBay bidders. One who bid nearly $125K earlier today spent Sunday on the prowl for a $4.99 Furby.
posted by MaxVonCretin at 10:05 AM on December 5, 2006


This post at the WFMU blog has a link to a Zip file with mp3s from the acetate.
posted by jonp72 at 10:06 AM on December 5, 2006


All well and good, but does anybody have a torrent I can download?
posted by Flashman at 10:22 AM on December 5, 2006


Life is a Rock, but the Radio Rolled Me is a pop classic. Great stuff!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:29 AM on December 5, 2006


The statement that they "made a high quality digital back-up copy of the material" directly contradicts what they said on the radio this morning. Warren or his friend, I forget which one, said that they only listened to part of the record for fear of damaging it. This is a strange inconsistency... or maybe it's nothing.

Maybe they only listened to part of it, transferred it to another medium, and then listened to that?
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 10:33 AM on December 5, 2006


Thanks for pointing that out, I missed it in the auction.
posted by boo_radley at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2006


They could use a laser turntable to avoid wearing the acetate out.
posted by zsazsa at 10:39 AM on December 5, 2006


Torrent
posted by meehawl at 10:39 AM on December 5, 2006


I guess I should clarify that I was asking not just in the "ZOMG TORRENT PLZ" sense (although I am happy that it's available), but to wonder if this is a case where the object is so precious and fragile that playback or even handling it would be too risky to consider from a collector's point of view.

Trivia: I was first exposed to VU through a Sheep on Drugs cover of Waiting for the Man.
posted by boo_radley at 10:53 AM on December 5, 2006


the acetate is now up for auction on EBay, where the high bid is $124,640.50 and climbing...

I have a pair of brakes going out on an '88 Dodge Caravan that imitates (pitch-perfect) Reed's Metal Machine Music. Let's start the bidding at $25,000.
posted by hal9k at 10:54 AM on December 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


Warren or his friend, I forget which one, said that they only listened to part of the record for fear of damaging it. This is a strange inconsistency... or maybe it's nothing.

There are no-contact players for records. They use lasers rather than needles and thus would not damage the vinyl. You can see one of them here.
posted by aubin at 11:26 AM on December 5, 2006


Apparently, he met with lawyers for the Velvet Underground a few years ago--to discuss what, I'm not sure. In any event, we'll see what it finally sells for, and if he actually gets the money, this time.

Right of first sale applies. They bought they disk and they own the physical copy of the disk. The music on the disk is still copyright the original artist, so the people who own the disk can sell or license copies.

This has come up before with rare letters, and it happened to J.D. Salinger. An ex-girlfriend of his auctioned off the letters he wrote her, but she wasn’t allowed to publish them.

The statement that they "made a high quality digital back-up copy of the material" directly contradicts what they said on the radio this morning. Warren or his friend, I forget which one, said that they only listened to part of the record for fear of damaging it. This is a strange inconsistency... or maybe it's nothing.

If you look at the eBay auction, they list and describe the tracks, which I can't imagine they could have done if they hadn't listened to them. And if they listened to the whole disk, they probably would have recorded it.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2006


Though this is cool as hell, I could swear it's a double.
(Not enough to actually search for it, however).

But yeah, this has been total fantasy material for every record geek I know since the news got out.
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 AM on December 5, 2006


It's a quantum album. If you listen to it, you destroy it. You are not allowed to know if it is an actual album unless you listen to it. Therein lies the paradox.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2006


For those of you who, like me, just downloaded the tracks from BitTorrent or wherever, ClickRepair 2 does an *excellent* job of making them much more pleasant to listen to.
posted by mrbill at 12:30 PM on December 5, 2006


Rumor has it that Schrödinger's cat was a ghost producer. That Warhol, always thinking!
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:46 PM on December 5, 2006


There are "yards" in Chelsea?
posted by Mikey-San at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2006


There's the Chelsea Flea Market every weekend at 112 West 25th Street.
posted by ericb at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2006


Previously
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2006


Ah, cool, thank you.

In any event, I wish I could find a transcript of the radio appearance from this morning. Their assertion that they had not listened to the album was about as straightforward as it gets. It even elicited surprise from the host, and this did not prompt them to clarify their claim. This is an inconsequential fact, though--the story is interesting, and I hope they make a killing!
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 5:02 PM on December 5, 2006


I find this whole VU acetate story interesting because I knew Norman Dolph quite well back in NYC. He rarely spoke about his involvement with the music business, let alone with Andy and the VU. But he lived quite close to the original Factory on 48th Street so he probably spent a few evenings there hobknobbing with Candy et al.
posted by corianderstem at 8:16 PM on December 5, 2006


Wow, this is so funny. When I lived in Japan, a good Canadian friend of mine told me about her friend back home. He wasn't doing so well because he found this original unmarked Velvet Underground record at a yard sale... too many people knew about it, didn't know where he should keep it, and what the lawyers were going to do about it... We sat in a coffee shop and wished we could quit teaching English and hit a jackpot...
Months later, here it is on MetaFilter!
posted by simonemarie at 9:27 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Please santa, please....
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:15 PM on December 5, 2006


Bonus: see a post from a teenage eyewitness to the VU's 1966 session that produced this acetate.

I don't think a teenager could possibly have witnessed anything that happened in 1966. Anyone who was a witness would have to be at least 40 by now!

/smartass

Why would you auction something like this on e-bay? Wouldn't Sotheby's be a better place?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:45 PM on December 5, 2006


Wouldn't Sotheby's be a better place?

Or, Christie's. However, both auction houses get a nice auction commission for all successful sales in one of their auction houses -- "a buyer's commission of 11% and a 9% seller's commission."

Here's an interesting article on their own moves to online auctions in 1999 and another on their "rough transition online" with Sotheby's shutting down online auctions in May 2003.
posted by ericb at 9:30 AM on December 6, 2006


Velvet Underground Rarity Sells on eBay for $155,401.
posted by ericb at 4:44 PM on December 10, 2006


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