The Velvet Underground & Nico

Original mono pressings of The Velvets’ ‘Banana’ album are highly sought after, but they don’t come cheap…

There are many records out there that are considered iconic, and one in particular is The Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Recorded while on Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour, whose instantly recognisable artwork graces the cover of the album, it was released with little to no fanfare. It was ahead of its time, musically, and dealt with less than savoury topics while their contemporaries were riding high on the flower power of the 60s. Critics didn’t know what to make of it, and it was heavily panned at the time.

Initial copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico are highly sought after by collectors across the world. Released by Verve records, mono pressings were on the classic blue with silver text label that featured the large ‘T’ design. The sleeve includes a sticker of the Andy Warhol image on the front that can be peeled back to reveal a flesh-coloured banana. The rear of the sleeve caused controversy due to it containing an image of actor Eric Emerson’s torso, who had recently been arrested for drug possession and insisted on payment. The label recalled copies sent out and placed a large sticker over printed copies. The subsequent pressing had the image airbrushed out, yet some made it into the wild.

The mono pressing changes hands for around £2,000, but is almost impossible to find in anything better than Average condition. Airbrushed stereo pressings that followed shortly after have also reached that figure, with collectors desperate to own this legendary album. Reappraisal of the record in later years has shown how it informed the indie, alternative, grunge and shoegaze genres, and it has been established as one of the most influential albums of all time.

Glen Bushell