At a time when the majority of people around the world were “California Dreaming“, the Velvet Underground were un-apologetically representative of the much grittier New York City experience. And as the Velvet Underground’s critical stature grew to astronomical heights after their initial 1960s heyday (thanks in no small part to the involvement of NYC art icon Andy Warhol), they have become one of the city’s most recognizable cultural benchmarks. Flavorwire were keen enough to put together a Velvet Underground map of New York City to illustrate just how intrinsically connected they were to the streets of NYC. You can view it below:
What makes this map great is the fact that it not only brings to light certain lesser-known sources of inspiration for the Velvet Underground, but it also serves to highlight many long-lost aspects of the city itself. For instance, everybody knows about the Velvet Underground’s association with Warhol’s Factory (the New York studio where the earliest incarnation of the Velvet Underground rehearsed and hung out). But what many people may not be aware of is Lou Reed’s true creative proving grounds at Long Island City’s Pickwick Studio.
This studio was the home of minor label Pickwick, with whom Reed was employed a songwriter whose task was to replicate whatever musical trend “was all the rage.” This now long defunct studio has since become a wine warehouse. Another illuminating location pointed out on this map is the initial location of the Factory, then called the Silver Factory. The word “Silver” came from the silver foil and paint that adorned the original E 47th St. studio.
Some of the more obvious inclusions on this list include Lexington Ave. and 125th St., an uptown intersection that was immortalized in the lyrics for their seminal classic “I’m Waiting for the Man” (needless to say, it’s a much more agreeable area than when it was known by Reed and his ilk as a popular drug haven). Another location worth pointing out is The Delmonica Hotel at 502 Park Avenue. This was the location where Warhol’s multi-media show the Exploding Plastic Inevitable debuted (featuring the live music of the Velvet Underground), which went by the title “Up-Tight“. In true New York style, the hotel has since been transformed into luxury condos.
If we had a choice of choosing locations outside of New York City, we would surely include many other lesser-known landmarks from the Velvet Underground’s career including Syracuse University (where the majority of band members had met) as well as the Boston Tea Party, a venue (and city) in which the band received their most initial acclaim. As it stand though, Flavorwire’s map stands as a great introduction into the forgotten world of the VU’s NYC.
If you want to find out more about the history of NYC, check out our piece on the history of Ludlow Street. For more music related factoids about NYC, check out our piece on New York’s Punk Rawk Yoga.
Contact the author @DouglasCapraro