Velvet Underground / Exploding Plastic Inevitable Live in Boston 1967
May 26, 2014 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Rare footage of the Velvet Underground playing live in Boston (1967, sound, color, 33 mins. Dir: Andy Warhol) has recently been discovered.

Newly found footage shot by Warhol of the VU and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Boston Tea Party in 1967 offers a tantalizing view of the legendary group live on stage. The actual quality of the film is decent, although the sound is muddy and the psychedelic light show combined with Warhol's gimmicky camerawork make it difficult to make out much of the band playing. Still, it's the most footage available of a group that never saw a set filmed with sound until their 1993 reunion.

Probably for die-hards only, but enjoy!
posted by item (20 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I'm a die hard and I did.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:16 PM on May 26, 2014

Guess I'm Fallin' in love. Yeah, just point the camera at the band Andy. The sound I can cope with but the gimmicky camerawork is awful.

Although at about 8 mins there is a close up of Lou Reed which is pretty cool. Is John Cale still in the band at this point?
posted by marienbad at 1:17 PM on May 26, 2014

Interesting to see the crowd too. I often wondered what protopunk shows were like before slamdancing. What did people do when they saw and heard raw driving noise like this? Looks like the answer is "stand quietly" or "do an impression of a Goya painting."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:18 PM on May 26, 2014

Dynamite! Thank you!

Oddly enough I was set to do a post on Lou Reed's The Bells today but I'll let it it marinade for a while.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:18 PM on May 26, 2014

Venus in Furs Live (ish)

I used to have the Boston Tea Party album, now sadly long gone, would this be recorded/filmed at the same place?
posted by marienbad at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2014

OK, ignore last question, I opened this in a new tab and the first related link says "The Velvet Underground - "Live at The Boston Tea Party" (Jan. 10, 1969) " So I guess not!

Also, the Youtube posters comment says "The Velvet Underground - " shot at the Boston Tea Party, as the Beantown club became one of the band's favorite, most-played venues, and was where a 16-year-old Jonathan Richman faithfully attended every show and befriended the group. Richman, who would later have his debut recordings produced by John Cale, and later yet record a song about the group, is just possibly seen in the background of this film."

posted by marienbad at 1:29 PM on May 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think I can just make out a young Jonathan Richman in the third row.
posted by Flashman at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

According to this nicely annotated chronology of 1967 Velvet Underground appearances, they played the Tea Party that year on May 26-27, June 9-10, August 11-12, and August 24.

The show in the film is the August 11-12 one. The promotional flier is quoted: "Be part of what's Happening. Andy Warhol Underground Filmmaker comes to the Boston Tea Party this weekend to capture the people on films they explode to the sights and sounds of The Velvet Underground. You are the star. You are what's Happening. Be part of Boston's first authentic underground movie."

Note that this was at the original Tea Party at 53 Berkeley Street, not the later one on Lansdowne near Fenway Park. It opened January 20, 1967, featuring The Lost. In exchange for tickets, I did some volunteer painting in the place in early January, and was there opening night. The building was originally a Unitarian meeting house, had also served as a synagogue somewhere along the way, and was home of the Filmmakers Cinematheque. (Details.) It had a very tiny stage (just the former raised pulpit area), and no seats on the main floor, so you could get very close to the bands. There were seats in the balcony, where you coul watch those light show artists at work also.
posted by beagle at 3:09 PM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

By the way, also in that chronology, it lists a show in May 1967 at Steve Paul's Scene in New York as the last Exploding Plastic Inevitable show, and none of the prior EPI shows were at the Tea Party, which had its own crew of light show artists. (This BBC page says the final EPI show was April 1967. Given the uncertain date of the Steve Paul's Scene show, that could be the same one.) So that piece of the YouTube description is not correct; EPI was already history at the time of the filmed Tea Party show.
posted by beagle at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2014

Is there a source for this above the youtube level?
posted by anazgnos at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2014

You know who else saw the Velvets every time they played the Tea Party?

That's right: my dad.

I'll watch it tonight for him.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:07 PM on May 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Richman, who would later have his debut recordings produced by John Cale, and later yet record a song about the group, is just possibly seen in the background of this film.
posted by juiceCake at 4:22 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Former Rolling Stone editor Fred Goodman wrote about this in some detail in his book The Mansion on the Hill, which includes a chapter on the Boston Tea Party. According to him:

[Tea Party owner Ray] Riepen's sweetest triumph. . .was against a club named the Crosstown Bus. A well-financed start-up aimed at knocking off the Tea Party, the club spent lavishly on preopening advertising and debuted with one of the hottest bands in the country, the Doors. Riepen couldn't possibly come up with a band that was a better draw. Instead, he called in a favor. The Tea Party had provided a steady gig for Andy Warhol's musical proteges the Velvet Underground despite the fact that they didn't draw well. Now, Riepen wanted something in return. "Listen," Riepen told Warhol. I'm playing the Velvets, and they're deader than a doornail. I want you to come up here and shoot a movie. I don't care if you've got any film in your camera, but bring Nico and Ultraviolet and all the rest of those cripples and get up here."

Whil the Crosstown Bus blitzed Boston with ads for the Doors, Ripen mounted his counteroffensive. The Tea Party distributed flyers around Cambridge that featured a simple, irresistably hip come-on: YOU BE ANDY WARHOL'S NEXT MOVIE.

"We had the lights out, had the cameras out, and we had lines down the street."

The Crosstown Bus didn't make it

posted by layceepee at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thanks layceepee — I had been trying to come up with the name of the guy who recruited me and a friend to do painting work at the Tea Party — it was Ray Riepen. The thing is, in those days, bands like The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and the Velvet Underground could all be seen in Boston in relatively small venues for three or four bucks at the door. And at least at the Tea Party, what you experienced is very much what is reflected in the film. Lots of project lighting, strobes and whatnot, with an occasional glimpse of the band.
posted by beagle at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's not footage of the Velvet Underground. Or it shouldn't be. The music, or perhaps the recording, is terrible and the direction, Warhol be damned, sucked. Velvet Underground was ancillary to the event.

That's footage of an LSD influencened rave, before there were called raves.

Decades ago I gave up everything except alcohol and nicotine.

That still looks like fun though.
posted by vapidave at 5:13 PM on May 26, 2014

What did people do when they saw and heard raw driving noise like this? Looks like the answer is "stand quietly"...

Mostly people seem to be dancing--in pretty much the same way they'd dance to any rock band at the time. I don't know that I'd call the Velvets "raw driving noise." What we're hearing on the video isn't much like any of the (decent) recordings of VU live and isn't, I think, much like what the people in the hall are actually hearing. I mean, yeah, "White Light / White Heat" gets pretty insistent, but we're not talking deathmetal, industrial noise or anything like what we'd think of as the harder edge of 70s punk. And that's about the outer edge of VU's "noisiness." A lot of the other stuff is very melodic, even gentle and beguiling.
posted by yoink at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2014

That's not footage of the Velvet Underground.

I think it is, but it's just raw film, out of the can. The Warhol museum sat on this for years before having it "restored". It has been shown at MoMA. YouTube text is cribbed from the MoMA description.
posted by beagle at 5:31 PM on May 26, 2014

Still, it's the most footage available of a group that never saw a set filmed with sound until their 1993 reunion yt .

Well, to quibble, there's also:

Title: The Velvet Underground and Nico
Director: Andy Warhol
Year: 1966
Language: English
16mm, black and white

posted by ovvl at 6:24 PM on May 26, 2014

OK, I haven't even (yet) looked at the concert link, but I just want to say that this is a great thread. Well done team!
posted by peacay at 9:54 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

A DVD of this has been floating around on certain bittorrent trackers for a couple of years now. The quality isn't noticeably better than the youtube version, though.
posted by nixxon at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2014

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