The debut album by The Velvet Underground was released on 12 March 1967 and was almost universally ignored by critics and the record-buying public at the time.
Financed by Andy Warhol (who is listed as the album’s producer, although he had little involvement in the actual recording of the album), the 4-day recording sessions cost between and estimated $1500-$3000 ($10,000 - $20,000 in today’s dollars). While many involved insist that John Cale actually produced the album, Cale credited Tom Wilson.
Due to the controversial (for the time) subject matter of the songs, the label didn’t promote the album, radio station’s wouldn’t play it, and magazines refused to carry ads for it. To add more problems, Eric Emerson, another Warhol Factory member, sued over the unauthorized use of his (upside down) image on the back cover and demanded payment. Instead of settling the suit, all albums were recalled from stores and a black sticker affixed over Emerson’s image until a new cover without Emerson could be printed.
The band ended their relationship with Andy Warhol shortly after the album’s release, fired Nico (although the band continued to write material for her, and play on her solo records), but continue to work with Tom Wilson.
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The Velvet Underground’s 2nd album was released on 30 January 1968.
Following the poor sales of their first record, the band parted with both Andy Warhol and Nico, and recorded White Light/White Heat in 2 days (produced by Tom Wilson). It didn’t help the sales any, but once again, the music proved to be highly influential.
The commercial failure of the album heightened tensions between John Cale and Lou Reed. Cale wanted the music to continue in even more experimental ways, while Reed wanted to achieve popular success. In the fall of 1968, Reed held a band meeting without Cale and announced that either Cale had to go or the band would be dissolved. Cale was fired.