Touched by Andy Warhol
Another 1960s album.. This album, complete with legendary cover by the eclectic artist Andy Warhol, came out of the New York music scene in the latter stages of the decade.
Contrary to popular belief, the group were successful in the time after the album’s release. They drew attention and had plenty of exposure, but the album did not sell as well as some of the band’s contemporaries at the time.
The cover features a sticker of a banana skin, which can be pealed back to reveal the banana underneath. My copy is without any traces of the original sticker, but I have an anniversary repressing that has one.
Naturally, the release was not without complications..
The first time I listened to the album straight through, I wasn’t overly impressed. What did resonate with me is that the haunting refrains from several of the tracks stuck with me for days later, especially “I’ll Be Your Mirror” on the B side.
After repeated consumption, it really grew on me, particularly “Femme Fatale” and “Venus In Furs” on the A-side, with the up tempo speed and vocal stylistics of Lou Reed in particular.
This is an original 1967 US mono pressing on a blue Verve label. The initial release of the album courted controversy, not owing to some of the racy lyrics, but rather to the album artwork on the rear.
This is known as a “torso” copy. What you see here is a photo of the band with two images projected above them. Here’s the controversy (via Wikipedia):
When the album was first issued, the main back cover photo (taken at an Exploding Plastic Inevitable performance) contained an image of actor Eric Emerson projected upside-down on the wall behind the band. Having recently been arrested for drug possession and desperate for money, Emerson threatened to sue over this unauthorized use of his image, unless he was paid.
Rather than complying, MGM recalled copies of the album and halted its distribution until Emerson’s image could be airbrushed from the photo on subsequent pressings. Copies that had already been printed were sold with a large black sticker covering the actor’s image.
At first I had trouble seeing the Emerson face, as it is projected over Lou Reed’s face, but once I turned it upside down, the outstretched arms make it easier to see:
The release comes in a gatefold sleeve, and my copy is in pretty good condition considering the age.
The LP itself has seen better days.
The good news was that after a ultrasonic clean and (later) the application of the GrooveWasher solution, the A-side plays through without skipping and only with the odd latent noise, probably worthy of G+ or even VG condition for the audio.
The bad news is that on the B-side, the first track “Heroin” is mostly unplayable, even with max anti-skating. There’s a small but deep scratch running across the groove for most of the track, that oddly terminates at the start of the second track.
However, the B-side plays through the rest of the side without any further skips (and some loud distortion at times, but rather briefly). Tracks 3-5 play perfectly fine, same as the A-side.
With that said, I still sometimes play it through (aside from track 1 on the B side) and it’s still an interesting piece of music history.