avant garde of 60s

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On this day in music history: December 26, 1967 - “Magical Mystery Tour”, starring The Beatles airs on BBC1 in the UK. An hour long film directed by the band shows them on charabanc bus trip with numerous friends and other odd characters around the English countryside. The original idea for the film comes from Paul McCartney after a recent trip to the US. He creates an outline for his ideas on a sheet of paper, drawing a circle, and sketching out what should happen during a particular segment. When filming begins in September of 1967, it is largely unscripted, with the group simply driving around, and letting the cameras roll and hoping to capture any spontaneous moments. The band spent two weeks filming, and then eleven weeks in the editing room paring the ten hours of footage shot into the finished film. Though it is shot in color, the initial broadcast by the BBC is in black & white, greatly diminishing the film’s visual impact. When it is aired to a large UK viewing audience on Boxing Day, it is so poorly received by fans and critics, that plans for it to be aired on US TV by NBC are immediately withdrawn. However, the LP and double EP set containing music from the film is highly successful. Over the years, the film takes on cult status among Beatles fans. “Magical Mystery Tour” is fully restored and released on DVD and Blu-ray disc in 2012, nearly forty five years after its original broadcast.

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On this day in music history: March 12, 1967 - “The Velvet Underground & Nico”, the debut album by The Velvet Underground & Nico is released. Produced by Andy Warhol and Tom Wilson, it is recorded at Scepter Studios in New York, T.T.G. Studios in Los Angeles, CA, and Mayfair Studios in New York City from April - May 1966 and November 1966. The New York based rock band form in 1965, playing small clubs and other venues until they meet artist Andy Warhol, who becomes their manager. The Velvets become a central part of Warhol’s media events, and cultivate a solid following on the New York avant-garde scene. The band are signed to MGM distributed Verve Records, and given full creative control. Warhol pairs them with German vocalist Nico, who sings on three tracks. After the initial sessions in April and May, some tracks are re-recorded. When it is finally released, it is to only minimal fanfare. Because of its raw production style and controversial subject matter, the album almost completely ignored by radio and is a commercial failure upon its release (selling only 30,000 copies initially). However, it goes on to become one of the most influential and acclaimed rock albums of all time, with its reputation spreading largely by word of mouth among fans and other musicians. The albums iconic artwork designed by Warhol, features a “peelable” yellow banana sticker on the front cover on the initial pressing, with the legend “peel slowly and see” next to it. Unpeeling the sticker reveals a pink banana underneath. The expensive and complicated manufacturing process delays its release by several months. This turns the album into a highly sought after collector’s item. In 2012, UMG releases an alternate version of the album titled “The Scepter Sessions”, consisting of what was the initial version “VU&N” featuring different mixes and alternate takes. This version is sourced from the only surviving acetate of the album cut on April 25, 1966 by engineer Norman Dolph. It is found in September of 2002 by a collector at a Chelsea flea market for 75 cents in December of 2006, it is sold in an eBay auction for $25,200. “The Scepter Sessions” is released on CD as part of a 6 CD box set edition of “VU&N” and as a limited edition vinyl LP on Black Friday Record Store Day in November of 2012. The CD set featuring all of the previously mentioned items along with Nico’s “Chelsea Girl” album, rehearsal recordings, live performances and an eighty-eight page hardcover book annotated by Richie Unterberger is released. “The Velvet Underground & Nico” peaks at number one hundred seventy one on the Billboard Top 200. In 2006, “The Velvet Underground & Nico” is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress, for its ongoing influence, historic and cultural significance. The album re-charts briefly, re-entering the Top 200 at number one hundred twenty nine the week after Lou Reed’s death in November of 2013.