John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

Timeline: 1966

Delmonico's Hotel

Psyching the psychiatrists

On the night of January 13 The Velvets play at the Annual Dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry at Delmonico's Hotel, New York, and drive the audience crazy. It is the first public appearance with Nico.

It is the start of Up-Tight which expanded to the multimedia extravaganza The Exploding Plactic Inevitable, with split screen movies, dancers and the Velvets ripping though it.

The New York Times points out Cale as "the leader of the Velvet Underground".

Lou Reed, Nico and John Cale. January 13, 1966. Live at the psychiatrists convention at the Delmonico's Hotel, New York. © 1966 Adam Ritchie
"Lou, having had a painful experience, a brutal experience at the hands of psychiatrists with shock treatment was beside himself with glee at the idea of going and doing this. And we relished it. We went and did the show. We’d play in the grand ballroom, with candelabra, etc, etc. And we set up our amplifiers and we performed a blistering set and we assaulted their senses."

Factory days

The Velvets start rehearsing in the Factory, the workshop run by Andy Warhol:

"When we went up to the Factory it was a real eye-opener for me. It wasn't called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly-line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new. I think he was dipping into anything he fancied."
The Velvet Undergound at Paraphernelia - photo: Nat Finkelstein

Meets Betsey Johnson at the Paraphernelia

In March fashion designer Betsey Johnson hired Warhol to stage a party at Paraphernelia, the flagship store of Pilgrim Clothes who had hired Johnson to design the clothes. The Velvet Underground performed at the party. Soon afterward Cale and Johnson become an item and she designed some clothes for The Velvets:

"[The Velvet Underground] were asked to come play at the opening. It was one of those crazy things that Andy was always partial to—he’d just throw a band in the middle of anything. It was this white store with boxes and marble. They asked us to play, and we didn’t want to play, they asked us to play again, we said we don’t want to play…It was sort of a testy situation, but the clothes were really stunning. It was recognizable to me that something different was going on in New York, very street-oriented, bustling with energy. So Betsey came and did some clothes for us. My aesthetic at the time was all black—black waistcoat, black turtleneck, black pants, and that was my comfort range. Then Betsey came along and—‘Hey, velvet! Oh, man, yeah, I’d like to get some velvet!’ She made herself a pinstripe suit, and I said, ‘Can I have a pinstripe suit?’ ‘No, you can’t have a pinstripe suit.’ ‘All right, well, can I have a black velvet suit, please?’ ‘Yes.’ Sterling [Morrison] got a beautiful deep forest green velvet suit, and Moe [Tucker] had a black one, and Lou [Reed] had a gray leather suit."

Photographer Nat Finkelstein:

"We staged a party in a fishbowl, a store window on Madison Avenue. Crowds gathered... the idea was that everybody who saw the party would buy clothes there. The girls showed the new fashion while they were dancing to the Velvet's music."
Screentest for Andy Warhol

Screentest for Andy Warhol

All Factory vistors, regulars and hangers-on were dragged before the camera by Andy Warhol for a screentest. This is a photo from that session, reproduced in "GIANT" - A comprehensive visual biography of Andy Warhol.


The Velvets play incidental music during screenings of this Andy Warhol movie, featuring Mario Montez, Mary Woronov, Gerard Malanga, Jack Smith.

Police Car

Police Car

Cale makes a short film called Police Car. No sound, and it is in black & white. Part #31 in the Fluxus Film series.

Norman Dolph acetate

Recording in New York

The Velvets record tracks for their first album The Velvet Underground & Nico at Scepter and Mayfair studios in New York in April.

On April 25 engineer Norman Dolph makes two acetates from the Scepter sessions. It contains nine tracks in a different running order, all alternate tracks. An acetate pops up on eBay in 2006, listed by collector Warren Hill who paid $0.75 for it. It will be released officially on The Velvet Underground & Nico - 45th anniversary deluxe edition box set in 2012.

Poster for the ill-fated residency at The Trip

A Trip to Los Angeles

The Velvets are booked to perform a residency at the Los Angeles club The Trip, May 3-18. It is their first trip West and it is a disaster. The Mothers of Invention are the support act and Frank Zappa immediately started putting them down on stage.

The club is closed by the police on the third night. They are being accused of putting on a pornographic exhibition:

"Gerard and Mary acted out our sexual S & M rituals - he licked her boot, she made a show of whippping him - and Gerard panotmimed injecting a drug with a huge toy syringe, but that's all it was: an act. However, the police said that their dances were pornographic, and Lou's lyrics were pornographic. Gimme a break!"
Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground and Nico at the Castle, Hollywood Hills - photo: Gerard Malanga

Singer Cher went on record about the show with a snide remark that still haunts her until this day:

"It depressed me. It will replace nothing - except maybe suicide."

The Music Union states that if the band would stick around for their cancelled gigs, they have to be paid by the venue. They are checked into the Castle by Andy Warhol, "a mock-medieval structure in Griffiths Park that rented for $500 a week".

Recording the Banana Album

Recording in Los Angeles

The Velvets record tracks for their first album The Velvet Underground & Nico at T.T & G. Studios, Los Angeles, May 1966. Left to right: Sterling Morrison, Nico, John Cale and Lou Reed.

"You gotta laugh when you think the Banana Album was done in a studio where the floorboards were up... they were building it. We had holes in the floor, you had to step around them and be careful. We'd have the viola and the bass going into one Silvertone amp and the guitar and voice going into another."
Sunday Morning still

Sunday Morning movie

Short silent movie directed by Rosalind Stevenson. Features Cale, Sterling Morrison and Loue Reed rehearsing at her apartment.

Poor Richard's

Vocals at Poor Richard's in Chicago

In June the Velvets play a week long residency at the Poor Richard's club in Chicago without Lou Reed (hepatitis) and Nico (off to Ibiza).

Cale handles the vocals, the first time he sings lead. Maureen Tucker plays bass. Sterling Morrison sticks to his guitar and Angus MacLise returns for this occasion to play drums.

"In Chicago, I was singing lead because Lou had hepatitis, no one knew the difference. We turned our faces to the wall and turned up very loud. Paul Morrisey (later the director of Trash) and Danny Williams had different visions of what the light show should be like and one night I looked up to see them fighting, hitting each other in the middle of a song. Danny Williams just disappeared. They found his clothes by the side of a river, with his car nearby... the whole thing. He used to carry this strobe around with him all the time and no one could figure out why till we found out he kept his amphetamine in it."

Initially booked for June 21-26, the band continues to play there until July 3.

The East Village Other Music Newspaper


This track can be found on the Hiroshima edition of The East Village Other Music Newspaper, an 'electric newspaper' album. It was recorded on August 6.

The Velvets perform in the background of an interview with Lucy Johnson, daughter of US president Lyndon Johnson, on her wedding day.


Loop in Aspen Magazine

This instrumental track, composed and played by Cale and credited to The Velvet Underground, is issued on a flexi-disc with issue number 3 (The Pop Art issue) of Aspen magazine. The label says "Guitar and feedback", "First half of a 15-minute recording made with two monaural tape recorders" and "Final groove purposely left open". On the A-side of the flexi-disc is White Wind, a composition by Peter Walker.

Aspen Magazine No.3
"On the electronic front, there's the free-wheeling manipulation of dials in control rooms; sub-sonic sounds that you feel, not hear; machine noises; feedback; tape echo; anything!"

Aspen was a multimedia magazine that came in a box. It was published on an irregular schedule by business woman Phyllis Johnson. Despite its name the magazine was based in New York. Cale would contribute five poems and a short story to no. 9 (The Psychedelic issue) in 1971.

© 1999- Hans Werksman