The Velvet Underground Played At My High School

This animated short recounts the Velvet Underground's first gig—in 1965, in front of a crowd of shocked kids at a suburban New Jersey high school.

AIRED: October 23, 2019 | 0:07:50



[ Microphone feedback ]


[ Wheep! Whoop! ]

[ Eyes squeak ]

-So, the first time I heard about it,

I was checking out the 45s at my local record store.

They had a poster up in the window,

and I was like, "Wow, cool."

[ Choir vocalizing ]

Back then, I was in my own band,

but we weren't good enough to have a record on the radio.

The Myddle Class were the real thing,

and they were doing a concert at my high school.

-Whooooo! Whoo!

-♪ You never miss the water

-The Myddle Class were a local band,

and they had a record that was being played on the radio...

-♪ Till the well runs dry -..."Free as the Wind."

I bought my tickets. [ Cha-ching! ]

The concert quickly sold out.

Meanwhile, "Free as the Wind" moved steadily up the charts.

-♪ My baby said, "Goodbye"

-The night of the concert came.

I picked up my date... [ Smooch! ]

...and rolled on over to the high school auditorium.

We were really psyched to see The Myddle Class play live.

40 Fingers opened the show, and they were good,

but now the anticipation for The Myddle Class

was building to a fever pitch. -♪ ...the storm

-But first, we had to sit through another band

that no one had ever heard of.

"And now from New York City, here's The Velvet Underground."

So the curtain opened, and there they were.

[ Microphone feedback ]

They did not look like a band I had ever seen before.

A huge wave of noise overtook us,

all scratchy and out-of-tune, lots of buzzing and crackling,

and then the drone of an electric violin.

[ Electric violin plays ]

Strange sounds of chaos.

The next thing I notice is

this equally insistent electric guitar strumming.

[ Electric guitar playing ]

And then I notice the drummer.

Kind of looked like a guy, but kind of looked like a girl,

and he or she was playing standing up.

I'd never seen a drummer standing up,

except on a football field.

[ Grunt, whistle blows ] The booing started

less than halfway through the first song.

One person said, "It sounds like they're killing a cat."

[ Electricity crackles ]

It was, in certain ways, very scary.

The music just enveloped me.

It surrounded me.

This was something else,and it sounded dangerously cool.

And then they played "Venus in Furs."

-♪ Shiny, shiny

-"Wait," I thought, "Is he singing about a sex slave?

I don't know of any other songs about sex slaves

or transvestites." -♪ In the dark

-"Who are these people, and how did they end up here?"

-♪ I am tired

-"Is somebody playing a joke on us?"

-♪ I am weary

-More and more people began to react

to what they were seeing.

-♪ ...for a thousand years

-A large percentage of the audience

just got up and left.

They walked out. -♪ ...would awake me

-People around me were saying,

"I'm gonna come back when The Myddle Class play."

-♪ ...made of tears

-I was like, "Okay, well, you're gonna miss this."

I don't know if the entire audience left,

and I was in there alone.

That would have been okay with me.

[ Microphone feedback ]

Then they introduced the third song.

-This is a song called "Heroin."

[ Indistinct conversations ]

♪ I don't know

♪ Just where I'm going

♪ Hey

-Now, in health class in 1965, they're gonna tell you,

"Don't smoke marijuana because it leads to heroin."

-♪ Into my vein

-It was completely shocking

because it was a very taboo subject

being told in a very public way and really foreign,

especially inside that building.

-♪ ...care anymore

♪ About all the Jim-Jims in this town ♪

♪ And everybody putting everybody else down ♪

♪ And all the politicians making crazy sounds ♪

♪ And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds ♪

-They disappeared just as quickly as they appeared.

After three songs, the curtain went down,

and that was that.

There was almost no applause. [ Clapping, coughing ]

What just happened?

Somewhere behind me, like 10 rows back,

there was a little nucleus of people

who were very enthusiastic about what they had just seen.

Yeah, some people liked it.

When The Velvet Underground's set ended

and I walked out of the auditorium

to catch up with my friends...

What happened to all my friends?

The hallways were filled with people.

There was some conversation about,

"What the hell was that? That last band really sucked."

But very quickly, it became,

"Hey, we better get back to our seats

because The Myddle Class are about to play.

We don't want to lose those good seats."

The evening went back to being this fun rock 'n' roll show

that was briefly hijacked by something else.

-♪ In the well till the well runs dry ♪

[ Crowd cheers ]

-This was the first time I'd seen any underground art.

It's a secret.

It's only available to those that seek it out,

but the craziness about that concert

is that nobody had to seek it out.

It came to us.

We didn't ask for it. It just came to us.

[ Whistle blows ]

Whenever I talk to people today who were there,

they still refer to it as

"The Myddle Class at Summit High School,"

but not me, no.

I definitely think of it as,

"The Velvet Underground at Summit High School."

That's the reason to remember that night.

[ "Venus in Furs" byThe Velvet Underground playing ]



[ Applause ]

[ Electric guitar strumming ]

[ Applause continues ]





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