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New book unveils the illustrated history
and art of The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground:
An Illustrated History Of A Walk On The Wild Side

Author - Jim DeRogatis
(Voyageur Press)
5 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Sept. 16, 2009
The Velvet Underground

Review by Tony Bonyata

While The Beatles may be making headlines with the release last week of their RockBand game and long awaited remastered CDs of their entire back catalog, there's actually another band from the '60s that is finally getting the proper recognition in book-form with the release this week of The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History Of A Walk On The Wild Side.

Written by the Chicago Sun Times music critic Jim DeRogatis (who has also penned music books on The Flaming Lips, music critic Lester Bangs and the history of psychedelic rock) this turns out to be the most comprehensive book on this highly influential rock band to date (through text, unseen band photos and rare concert memorabilia). It will certainly enlighten any newcomer interested in the early history of not only Lou Reed and The Velvets, but also punk and hardcore rock, as well as offering a fly-on-the-wall perspective of what it was like inside NYC's art and music scenes and Andy Warhol's pop-art Factory in the mid-to-late '60s (Warhol produced and promoted The Velvet Underground's seminal 1967 debut album). More importantly though, this book will impress the most hardcore Velvet fans through the treasure trove of rare concert and behind-the-scenes photos (many from Factory photographers Billy Name, Nat Finkelstein and Stephen Shore, as well as others from Gerald Malanga, who was one of the original dancers from Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia events that featured live music from The Velvet Underground & Nico). It also features chapters on The Velvets' later solo releases, a recorded discography and all of the band's live performances.

The real treat though is the presentation of the vintage show posters, handbills and memorabilia that fills this 192 page book. And just as The Velvet Underground's timeless, visceral music still manages to leap from the speakers 45 years after the band's inception, this visually stunning and colorful book makes the Velvet's story literally jump right from the page. As Warhol is quoted from the book, "We weren't just at the art exhibit - we were the art exhibit, we were the art incarnate." And thanks to DeRogatis' lavishly illustrated tome, The Velvet's have finally been given their first proper visual art installation - all between two covers.

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