Let's take a trip back in time and step into 'The Factory' No this isn't you're typical workshop... I'm talking about Andy Warhol's playground, his barrage of characters and the endless drug filled adventures. Music permeated the air... figures like Miss Edith Sedgwick the new "it" girl gallanting around, and in later years.. Lou Reed on guitar and the elegant figure, Nico, singing with her strange sultry voice dressing the hallways. They were all characters in Andy's universe, they were his superstars, his art. Andy's New York studio was the big hangout for musicians, artists and socialites in the mid 60s. The mix of creativity and speed made for some incredible artwork and music... one of the bands that would find inspiration in this Silver Factory was The Velvet Underground fronted by the one and only, Lou Reed. The Velvet Underground & Nico has become one of the most iconic rock records musically AND visually. The legendary banana cover was designed by Warhol himself. The original record had a banana sticker on the front and when peeled back revealed a pink center. Simple... yet significant.
Nico was a German singer, model and actress who made her way over to the states after working with an array of high fashion designers like Coco Chanel and was featured in many magazines along with a few small movie rolls. She wound up meeting Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and through some future encounters ended up becoming a part of one of Andy Warhol's projects... The Velvet Underground. Andy proposed she take some vocal parts in the group and the band reluctantly agreed. Although she struggled with partial deafness and a tendency to be off key.. I find her tracks on the album to be quirky and charming in their own way. Her voice is bizarre and deep, but there is something really serene about it, I'll Be Your Mirror is peaceful, elegant and alluring.
II find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty that you are
But if you don't let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you won't be afraid.
Venus in Furs is Lou Reed's sexually charged sadistic drone.. This track is incredibly visual, the lyrics grab you in, you can picture this little temptress in fur dancing around as the bells jangle in some far away bohemian oasis.
I don't know just where I'm going
But I'm gonna try for the kingdom, if I can
'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man
When I put a spike into my vein
And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same
When I'm rushing on my run
And I feel just like Jesus' son
And I guess that I just don't know.
Lou Reed created a masterpiece of a song with Heroin. It's the perfect musical display of drug use, addiction and the effect it has on humans. It starts off slight and promising, a couple strums from Lou's guitar, bringing us in with a beautiful calming melody only to gradually get faster and faster as it portrays the invincible climax, the point when nothing matters and life seems to be rushing through without a care in the world. He goes through this wave of emotion multiple times mimicking the drug and the feelings that come with it, ultimately ending in a distorted tangled version of itself... representing the sick and twisted love affair of a man and his poison.
Wow, that heroin is in my blood
And the blood is in my head
Yeah, thank God that I'm good as dead
Oh, thank your God that I'm not aware
And thank God that I just don't care.
Edie Sedgwick was Andy's 'It Girl' in the mid 60's... Nicknamed 'Princess' She was an heiress striving for fame in New York City. She modeled for Vogue and starred in many of Warhol's short films. Throughout her work with Andy she started gaining attention in the mainstream for her lifestyle, fashion sense and iconic eye makeup. She was beautiful, young and troubled. Edie struggled with drug addiction, eating disorders and was in and out of mental institutions for most of her life... yet I feel she was misunderstood and in constant search of love and a sense of worth which she never received in her youth. She was a perfect representation of the people under Warhol's wing and everything that characterized the era. Some say Andy loved Edie so much that he wished to be her. Ultimately they became estranged due to artistic differences and betrayal.. Edie felt Andy was making a fool of her in his films and started focusing most of her attention on Bob Dylan as he was on the upward with his recent decision to go electric. Andy was angry and heartbroken. Edie died a few years later in 1971 at the age of 28. One of many songs written about this little beauty was Femme Fatale...
Below is a painting I did of Andy and Edie which depicts the parting dynamic between the two. A sad story indeed, muse to adversary.. Covet to rapture. I'd like to dedicate this blog to the two of them and the music they inspired. I hope they have found peace.