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(Credit: Polydor)

Watch the earliest known footage of the Velvet Underground performing live


We’re dipping back into the Far Out Magazine archives to bring you a moment of history with The Velvet Underground’s first public appearance. It’s a moment in musical history that is quite possibly one of the largest flaps of a butterfly’s sonic wing.

Filmed on a Super 8 camera, the performance took place at a psychiatrist’s convention which was being held at the Delmonico Hotel in New York on January 14, 1966, after Andy Warhol was invited to speak at the annual banquet of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry. It was the first step in an influential career and cultural movement that would launch thousands of bands.

Typically, Warhol brought along a few of his friends which resulted in the Velvets and other factory regulars. The footage, which shows Lou Reed with the likes of Eddie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Nico, John Cale and Andy Warhol himself.

After the dinner at the Delmonico Hotel, the clip also shows a dance party at the apartment of Stephen Shore, an American photographer who regularly attended Warhol’s factory studio where he honed his craft before going on to exhibit his work at New York’s iconic Museum of Modern Art.

Interestingly, The Velvet Underground’s performance, which is thought to mark the first time Nico performed publicly with the band, was filmed by Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rubin who regularly documented the exploding underground counter-culture of the time.

“That was in 1966,” Lou Reed once said of the show. “It was a psychiatric convention or something. For some reason, they’d asked Warhol to be there and Andy took us. So yeah, this all took place. It was hilarious.

“They had a sense of humour too, up to a point. But we were all interviewing them and asking them psychiatric questions. It was just a big joke.”

In Pat Hackett’s book Popism: The Warhol Sixties, he details the somewhat surreal order of proceedings: “The second the main course was served, the Velvets started to blast and Nico started to wail. Gerard and Edie jumped up on the stage and started dancing, and the doors flew open and Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rubin with her crew of people with camera and bright lights came storming into the room and rushing over to all the psychiatrists asking them things like:

What does her vagina feel like?
Is his penis big enough? Do you eat her out?
Why are you getting embarrassed? You’re a psychiatrist; you’re not supposed to get embarrassed…

“While the crews filmed and Nico sang her Dylan song, Gerard noticed … that Edie was trying to sing, too, but … it was obvious she didn’t have a voice. [Gerard] always looked back on that night as the last time she ever went out with us in public, except for a party here and there. He thought that she’d felt upstaged that night, that she’d realized Nico was the new girl in town.”

See the footage and a newspaper report from the event, below.