'Velvet Underground' Documentary to Premiere on Apple TV+

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 22, 2020

Lou Reed performing at Lollapalooza in 2009
Lou Reed performing at Lollapalooza in 2009  (Source:AP Photo/John Smierciak)

A new documentary about legendary New York City rock band The Velvet Underground will premiere on Apple TV+, Pitchfork reports. An air date has yet to be announced.

Details of the Todd Haynes directed and produced film first came to light in 2017. A new press release promises "interviews with 'key players' from the Velvets' era, as well as 'a treasure trove of never-before-seen performances and a rich collection of recordings, Warhol films, and other experimental art."

In addition to directing such challenging and acclaimed films as "Far from Heaven" (2002) and "I'm Not There" (2007), the out Haynes also wrote and directed the problematic cult classic, "Velvet Goldmine." The 1998 film pays tribute to the glam rock era, but the late David Bowie, an innovator and pivotal figure of the genre, took issue both with Haynes' over-generalizations of glam and with relationship between the two male leads, who were allegedly based on Bowie and life-long friend and punk singer Iggy Pop

The iconoclastic New York City rock band formed in 1964, releasing five studio albums between 1967-1973. The Velvet Underground paired with pop singer Nico for their first album, an influential collection containing several songs that would enter into the rock canon — "Femme Fatale," "I'm Waiting for the Man," "Venus in Furs," and "Heroin." The album is also iconic for its cover design by Andy Warhol, a friend of the band.

The Velvets abruptly shifted course with their second album, 1968's "White Light/White Heat," a decidedly abrasive and brash collection, after which founding member John Cale would leave the band. And over the course of a few more albums, the band continued to evolve and push its art, with the late Lou Reed (who died in 2013) departing after their fourth album, "Loaded" in 1970. Only multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule remained for the band's fifth and final studio album, "Squeeze" in 1973. By this point, Reed and Cale, in particular, had well-established careers as solo artists.

The band, and certainly Reed and Cale in their solo work, would become highly influential figures on subsequent generations of alternative rock artists such as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Siouxsie & the Banshees (Cale produced their brilliant final album, "The Rapture," in 1995), among many others.

Reed, in particular, would be celebrated as one of the most influential songwriters, holding court with Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and more. And Reed, along with his friend the late David Bowie, would challenge and disrupt expectations surrounding gender and sexual orientation — especially on his second solo album, the Bowie-produced "Transformer" in 1972, with the album's hit single "Walk on the Wild Side" touching on issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity/non-conformity.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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