This week – and according to some sources even today, March 12 – the legendary rock album The Velvet Underground & Nico turns fifty. Happy birthday Lou, John, Moe, Sterling, Nico and Andy. An album that is mythical for both its music and Andy Warhol’s peelable banana on the cover. Of course there was a lot to read about the album these days, for instance an interview with VU founding member John Cale in Rolling Stone, and a great story about a fan who has no less than 800 different copies of the album in his collection.
I have about five or six of the original albums: with unpeeled, half peeled and totally peeled bananas, and different back covers: the original cover with the so called Emerson torso-picture, the version with a lawsuit sticker covering the Emerson picture, and the third version with the Emerson picture airbrushed out. I won’t go deeper in this now, all different versions are meticulously listed on the great Velvet Underground website by Olivier Landemaine.
The Velvet Underground & Nico, peeled version.
In this post I would like to focus on homages, spoofs and rip-offs or whatever you want to call them. In the last two or three decades a lot of artists have paid homage to Warhol’s banana cover. By copying the exact banana, or by re-using the peel idea with other fruits or objects. And some are really, really good. Scroll slowly, and see!
Abwärts – Sonderzug zur Endstation: 12″ and 7″ single by German post-punk band (1990). Warhol banana, with a little blue sticker with the band’s logo pasted on.
USA 1995, split 7″ by the bands All You Can Eat and Hickey (2 tracks each)
Dutch cd single, name of band and title translated: Band without a banana, Can’t complain, 1999
Black banana pasted on a black cover. A Velvet Underground bootleg (1986) with 2 pieces of the legendary 1966 concert in the Valleydale Ballroom, Columbus Ohio. Very very Warhol, this cover.
Andy Warhol, meet René Magritte! 12″ by Westside Chemical, US, 2000
Japanese 12″ titled Family by Crue-l Grand Orchestra (1999). Supposedly peelable, but so fragile I did not dare to do it.
The LP Welcome to The Monkey House by The Dandy Warhols (2003). Brilliant cover art painting by Ron English, that combines VU’s banana with Sticky Fingers’ zipper. Double Warhol. My favourite.
Promo cd of album above in cardboard cover.
The Dead Milkman, Smokin’ Banana Peels. US 12″, 1989. Also the back side mimics the VU album (see below)
Fauré Quartett on Deutsche Grammophon! The famous classical ensemble plays their interprations of pop and rock tunes (Germany, 2009). On the cover another interpretation: peelable apple turns out to be a raspberry in disguise.
Split single 7″ by bands Full of Fancy and The Acid Creeps (US, 2007)
Hickoids – The Hairy Chafin’ EP – promo cd only. Cow-punk from Austin, Texas. Peelable banana, shows a corncob underneath.
La Coopérative de Mai, live compilation album, France 2007
Compilation album of the Australian Phantom label (1983). Peeled sock shows foot of one of the label’s owners. The back side and inner cover render homage to all 3 other VU studio albums: White Light / White Heat, VU 3rd album and Loaded.
Happiness is a 9’6″.Surfrock 7″ by Pooch (US 1988). Banana replaced by McCoy surfboard.
Official German release of The Velvet Underground & Nico on cd, in a limited and numbered cardboard slipbox with a peelable banana. But very curiously, when the banana is peeled it shows another UNpeeled banana in pink. Great item!