In The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound, Warhol picks up his camera and captures a psychedelic journey.
Andy Warhol is rightly regarded as a multidisciplinary visual artist first, but his gratuitous charm and charismatic nature made him a protagonist in many infamous musical happenings. A regular at many legendary clubs from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, he was no stranger to celebrity. That can be seen in his many curiosities, as well as his interactions with musical muses, including Grace Jones and, most famously, the Velvet Underground & Nico. For this video, Warhol picks up his film camera and tapes a performance of his VU muses in a cramped New York studio.
This performance doesn’t capture the popular side of the Velvet Underground & Nico. Instead the band jams in a poetic cacophony that sounds little like their many memorable songs. One commenter likened the sound to Indian raga but “by american electric instruments,” and that describes it. The sweet and almost maddening electric drones are meditative, and Warhol inserts himself into the experience with wild use of zoom and little interest in protecting the fourth wall.
Perhaps the most endearing part of the film — besides Nico’s young boy aimlessly wandering to band members — happens just after 52:00. The NYPD come in to shut down the performance. The video continues for another ten minutes. From that point it’s pure cinéma vérité and a glimpse of a kind of moment fans seldom get to see: Legends not conjuring up a spectacle but moving through space as regular human beings.