The Velvet Underground

Volume Two [DVD]

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Although a bootleg, this DVD of rare Velvet Underground-related footage was indeed turning up in specialty record and video stores by 2003. It's hard to know what the definitive title is, as it reads "Volume Two" on the spine, but spells out some of the contents on the cover as follows: "Live at the Psychiatrists' Convention (Their first appearance ever -- Connecticut 1-11-66 and Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable [The first E.P.I. event -- Live at The Dom NYC 4-66])." The mere existence of such early Velvet Underground footage is enough to send tingles of anticipation down the spine of fans, but actually viewing the product is an enormous letdown. The footage is a jumble of blurry vari-speed clips in which the band is rarely seen. The only music consists of extremely low-fidelity versions of a few early songs and some noisy instrumentals, little or none of which seems to have been recorded at the same time the images were filmed; there are long stretches in which no music at all is heard. Most of the footage, indeed, is of dancers and what one presumes is some of the audience. There's also footage from private gatherings that are more tangentially Velvet Underground-related than they are actual Velvet Underground events, including glimpses of some notables like Edie Sedgwick, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Ed Sanders, and Tuli Kupferberg. Without virtually any context whatsoever as to where and when to place the material, either on the screen or elsewhere (there are no liner notes), it's close to a random, useless hodgepodge of Velvets-related or semi-Velvets-related clips, and pretty squalid as a viewing experience. On a strange note, the last segment of the video, unnoted in the packaging, is a low-quality but watchable dupe of a Spanish TV documentary on the Velvet Underground, done long after the group's demise. The main attraction of this is interview footage with Sterling Morrison, who talks straightforwardly and informatively about the band, although long gaps in their career are not addressed. Other than the interview, that documentary program consists of annoying collages of old stills of the band, with very poor-quality live tapes of the group playing in the background, as well as an apparent duet between Morrison and John Cale on "I'm Waiting for the Man" in which the camera cuts between them so quickly that you'll suffer from dizziness and a headache.