United States, World

How a Rock and Roll Band Ended the Cold War

“One minute born, one minute doomed. One minute up, one minute down. What goes on in your mind? I think that I am falling down.” This is a very moving quote from the song “What Goes on” by The Velvet Underground. In the past, many people looked up to this band because of the major impact they made on society. Oak Ridge students should listen to some of their songs. Their band is known to have influenced many people and the students of Oak Ridge could possibly get influenced also. The Velvet Underground has changed the way people view music and also has connections to the Cold War.

The Cold War began with the near close of WW2. The United States and the Soviet Union had different ideas about government and economics. The Cold War started in Europe and the Soviet Union had control over Eastern Europe. America decided to come up with the containment plan. This plan involved containing Russian’s tendencies to expand. This also provided a rationale for an unpredicted arms buildup in the United States. American officials encouraged the development of atomic weapons. This caused the “arms race.” The Soviets began testing their own atom bomb in 1949. President Truman then announced that the United States would build the “superbomb”. This bomb was more powerful than the atom bomb. The present threat of nuclear annihilation had a great impact on citizens lives as well. Bomb shelters were built in some people’s backyards. Duck and cover drills were practiced in schools and other places. In the 1950s and 1960s films were created that showed depiction of nuclear weapons and radiation creating monsters. Soon after this came the “space race.” On October 4, 1957 Sputnik was launched by an intercontinental ballistic missile. At the time this was the first man made object to be placed into space. Americans were not happy with this sight because they were in fear of losing too much ground over the Soviets. In 1958, the U.S. launched Explorer I designed by the U.S. Army. President Dwight Eisenhower then signed an order to create NASA which would help send more objects into space. Later that year a man named Alan Shepard became the first man in space. President John F. Kennedy then made a claim saying that we will have landed a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong officially landed on the moon. Therefore President Kennedy’s claim was right. While this was going on, a group known as the HUAC was forcing hearings that showed communist subversion in the United States. The HUAC was a committee that investigated any allegations of Communist activity in the United States at the time of the Cold War. Many actors and directors who were accused of being in relation with the communist party were banned from filmmaking. More than 500 people were unable to work again. Many people were trying to fight communism but it was not working. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union invaded Prague and this caused many of problems. Eastern Europe was struggling at this time but Lou Reed came in. The president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel was also into rock n’ roll. He ultimately became good friends with Lou Reed. Lou Reed was very influential and managed to push communism out of Eastern Europe. Vaclav Havel once said “Did you know I am president because of you?” Lou Reed ultimately saved Eastern Europe and was given credit by the Czech President himself.

Lou Reed was born in 1942. He grew up in. Brooklyn with strict parents. At age 17, he was sent by his parents to a psychiatrist because he was supposedly having random mood swings. His parents also wanted to cure Reed’s alarming mood swings. The psychiatrist suggested using an electroshock method to help him. At the time they couldn’t adjust the voltage amount which put Lou Reed at danger because he was only 17. Back then they did not have the technology to lower the voltage for younger people. His parents were only trying to help him but this treatment did not help. The treatment made Reed worse than ever. Reed wanted to become a writer but he had issues for a while due to the treatment. He felt wronged by his parents even though they were just being overprotective. He dedicated his life to rock ‘n roll and he has been playing the guitar since 1954. Lou moved away from his parents because he did not want to feel controlled anymore. He went to a University of Syracuse in 1960 where he learned more about music. This is where he met Sterling Morrison. Morrison had similar interests to Reed and they both had a similar background. Lou Reed started using drugs at this time and was a big influence on the people around him. He also sold some of the same drugs he used such as LSD, Marijuana and Heroin. Lou Reed graduated from the University in 1964 with a bachelor of arts degree. He went back home after that and put a small band together over the summer. Reed got hepatitis after he had shared a needle with his friend. He signed up to work at a small company known as Pickwick International. Terry Phillips also worked at Pickwick International  and with the help of some other people, they formed a small band called The Primitives. Later on, Reed, Cale and Morrison reunited after no seeing each other for a year and began making music again. They met a drummer named Angus MacLise and they formed a band known as The Velvets. They started performing in front of high schools. Then Al Aronowitz came along. He helped the band find jobs and started helping them. Aronowitz got the band into a club known as Cafe Bizarre. They performed here almost every day when eventually they met a man named Andy Warhol.

The Velvet Underground was first assembled by Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol was a very successful commercial artist and won many awards for his creativity. He was very into art and design and soon got into painting celebrities. Andy started to publish photos of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and John F Kennedy after they died. He gained so much fame that eventually led him to creating his own studio in New York on East 47th street. This was called “The Factory”. This was a place where popstars and poets of all kind would come to lounge and practice their music. The Factory was also used as a clubhouse. Eventually, a man named Paul Morrisey came along and convinced Andy to join a rock n roll band. At first Andy did not want to because he liked where he was at the time but eventually he considered the idea. Paul suggested that he be a manager of a small group known as The Velvet. Paul had originally seen them perform at Cafe Bizzare and he knew that they would work well with Andy Warhol. Then when Andy saw them perform for the first time he was amazed. He compared his art and his movies with their music. Paul realized that The Velvets needed a new singer. Lou Reed was their current singer but he was not comfortable performing. Morrisey introduced Nico to Andy. Andy then proceeded to tell The Velvets that Nico would then be their new lead singer. Nico visited Andy in his Factory a week earlier. Andy Warhol then convinced the band that Nico was their new lead singer. They then went on to create an album called “The Velvet Underground and Nico” which he went on to sell to a record label. This meant that there would be no funds but as a result, no one could interfere with the finished product. The band split up and went their separate ways for a while. They faced a lot of discrimination during this time and some people thought they represented evil. They created more and more albums even with the hate and they pursued their career. They eventually created more albums and had officially inspired people later on.

The Velvet Underground was one of the most influential bands of all time. Andy Warhol showed people that you can do anything if you believe in it. Andy gathered some people and put together a band. Andy saw potential in these people. Many people were inspired by this group because they made themselves different than other music. With the combination of Andy Warhol’s art and the rest of the bands background life they made a great team. They even struggled in the beginning but they pushed through it and made many successful albums. Overall, people should go listen to their music because it is very inspirational and moving. People should also try to make music in other countries to see if other people could get inspired. This could possibly end terrorism and give people a different perspective of the world.

Article by Nickolas Biaggi & Video by Adrian Ordanza

Works Cited

Smith, Mark E. “Lou Reed 1942–2013: Mark E Smith: 11/11/13 – The Wire.” The Wire Magazine – Adventures In Modern Music, www.thewire.co.uk/in-writing/essays/lou-reed-1942-2013_marke-smith_11_11_13.

“Cold War History .” History, www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cold-war-history.

Matt Welch. “How Lou Reed Inspired Anti-Communist Revolution.” Reason, reason.com/blog/2013/10/27/how-lou-reed-inspired-anti-communist-rev.


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