Velvet Underground April 1966 Scepter Studios


Velvet Underground April 1966 Scepter Studios (Norman Dolph Acetate). Get nine MP3s from the acetate (slightly scratchy, but still worth listening to if you know the Velvet Underground’s first album fairly well) directly from WFMU.

Backstory here: The Velvet Underground Play Portland How an Original Velvet Underground Acetate Wound Up in Portland (And Could Be the Most Expensive Record in the World!) by Ryan Dirks, which begins:

Yard sales are like junior high dances. You show up full of anticipation, bump into a lot of people, and then leave disappointed. But in both cases, an ineffable sense of possibility spawns return, over and over. Maybe this time I’ll slow dance with Tiffany Pfeiffer. Maybe this time I’ll find a first edition of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. Maybe my life will change within the hour.

And so earlier this year, with flickering expectation, Warren Hill picked through some old records at a yard sale in Chelsea, New York. They seemed out of place compared with the rest the junk, like a box that had been forgotten in the attic and left untouched by a string of disinterested tenants. He pulled out a soggy copy of the Modern Lovers’ first LP and then he saw it, a record with no sleeve and only a few hand-written words on the label: “Velvet Underground… 4/25/66… N. Dolph.” He bought it for $0.75.

Back in the spring of 1966, Bonanza was lighting TV sets and John Lennon was declaring the Beatles “more popular than Jesus,” but at a Polish Community Hall called the Dom in New York City’s East Village, a modern myth was created. The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a music-art-freak-out-happening, was the collaborative effort of Andy Warhol, his Factory followers, and the Velvet Underground. Epic versions of songs like “All Tomorrow’s Parties” were played at deafening volumes, dancers cracked whips, colored strobe lights flashed, and projected films drenched the audience, the walls, and the band in broken images of Edie Sedgwick’s face.

Warhol was keen to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the events. In hopes of maintaining the band’s abrasive sound and seedy subject matter, he saw the need for a completed record, one that could be given to record labels without allowing them creative control. In exchange for one of his paintings, Warhol asked a sales executive at Columbia Records to oversee a one-day recording session at the dilapidated Scepter Studios. He would not be credited as a producer, but he would play an integral part in the Velvet Underground’s earliest studio recordings. That man’s name was Norman Dolph.

On a single day in April, Dolph sat behind Scepter’s mixing boards as the band recorded what they thought would be their first record. Dolph had an acetate (a metallic “master” record) pressed after-hours at Columbia and sent it to the executives at the label. He still has the handwritten response he received when the acetate was returned, one he has paraphrased as, “You have to be fucking kidding!”

Wikipedia entry on Scepter Studios includes:

Though few albums of note were recorded at Scepter Studios, one was the influential, avant-garde rock and roll album The Velvet Underground & Nico, recorded in April 1966 by engineer John Licata under the supervision of Andy Warhol and Norman Dolph.

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