New York pp 89-105 | Cite as

Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground

  • John Simons
Part of the Insights book series

Abstract

This essay is a reading which articulates two texts: a record, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and a body of images produced by Andy Warhol. It is a critical analysis of two unwritten (i.e. not written) texts and a demonstration of the mechanisms by which they come to stand for a still unwritten text: New York City in the late 1960s. Let’s go back to Roland Barthes. In ‘Myth Today’, an essay which inhabits very much the same cultural environment as the texts under discussion here, he produced the following diagram:1
To use this ancient rebus marks me out, I suppose, as a fellow-traveller from an antique land but what I want to say about the Velvet Underground, Warhol’s art and New York City will, to some extent, disclose the avant-garde’s necessary dependence on tradition, within the economic processes of the art world. In this case an elementary semiotic model which permits a generalisation of the particular operations of the text may not be out of place.

Keywords

Vinyl Stein Nism Detritus Heroin 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Roland Barthes, ‘Myth Today’, in Mythologies, trans. A. Lavers (London: Paladin, 1971). The diagram is reproduced on p. 115.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The best monograph on Warhol is J. Coplans, Andy Warhol (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971). His analyses of Warhol’s techniques are intelligent and sound. V. Bockris and G. Malanga, Up-Tight, The Velvet Underground Story (London: Omnibus, 1983) provides a mass of documentation of Warhol’s connection with the Velvets.Google Scholar
  3. His analyses of Warhol’s techniques are intelligent and sound. V. Bockris and G. Malanga, Up-Tight, The Velvet Underground Story (London: Omnibus, 1983) provides a mass of documentation of Warhol’s connection with the Velvets.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    D. Hill, Obituary for Nico, Independent, 25 July 1988, p. 26; Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Message (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967).Google Scholar
  5. Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Message (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    G. R. Swenson, ‘What is Pop Art?’, in Roy Lichtenstein, ed. J. Coplans (London: Penguin, 1973) pp. 52–5, p. 52.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Andy Warhol and P. Hackett, POPism (London: Hutchinson, 1981) p. 207.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    On Edie Sedgwick see J. Stein, Edie, ed. G. Plimpton (London: Jonathan Cape, 1982).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Bockris and Malanga, Up-Tight, p. 120. The recording was made on 23 August 1970 but not officially released until 1972.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    George Melly, Revolt into Style (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin, 1972) pp. 127–8 speaks of Blake’s work in rather more complimentary terms and also draws attention to Warhol.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Robert Pattison, The Triumph of Vulgarity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) pp. 116–17.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Andy Warhol, From A to B and Back Again (London: Cassell, 1975) p. 25.Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    William Burroughs, The Wild Boys, quoted in D. Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London: Methuen, 1979) p. 23.Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    Jeff Nuttall, Bomb Culture (London: Macgibbon & Kee, 1968) p. 170.Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    Peter Conrad, The Art of the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984) p. 221.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    F. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. W. Kaufmann, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche (New York: Random House, 1968) variations on the remark are on pp. 22, 52 and 141.Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    On post-modernism see F. Jameson, ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’, New Left Review, 146 (1984) pp. 53–92 and F. Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  18. F. Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© the Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Simons

There are no affiliations available

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