Velvet Underground Discovery
75 cents to $100,000
Montreal student Warren Hill picked up this rare recording for pennies at a street sale in New York. Now he's put the disc on eBay and a bidding war has exploded
By JAMES ADAMS
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
A fragile preliminary pressing of the legendary 1967 debut vinyl recording by the Velvet Underground, bought by a Canadian collector four years ago for only 75 cents, is now for sale on eBay. As of yesterday afternoon, bidding had passed $110,000 (U.S.). The auction concludes Friday evening.
The acetate -- as the acetone-covered aluminum disc is called in music circles -- was posted for sale on Nov. 28 and in less than 72 hours it had scored more than 10,000 hits, with 70 individuals submitting bids, including the kick-off offer of $26.24. Bidding leaped to the $100,000 threshold early Sunday after various collectors had slowly pushed the action into the mid-five figures.
Montrealer Warren Hill bought the acetate at a street sale in lower Manhattan in September, 2002. A history student at the time at Concordia University, Hill, then 25, didn't know what he had purchased -- but later he and a friend, Eric Isaacson, proprietor of Mississippi Records and Repairs in Portland, Ore., determined that it was, in fact, a high-quality, likely heretofore never-played alternate version of The Velvet Underground and Nico, produced in New York in mid-1966.
Yesterday, Hill said he "[didn't] want to get too excited" by the interest the acetate is eliciting. "I don't know if people are scamming or what. If it comes true, great. But I'm not going to get super excited until the auction is over and the buyer is legit. I've been excited before and it didn't pan out."
Released in March, 1967, The Velvet Underground and Nico, with a cover (of a "peel slowly and see" banana) designed by the group's mentor, Andy Warhol, reportedly sold less than 50,000 copies on its first pass. But 36 years later, Rolling Stone magazine was naming it the 13th-greatest rock album of all time.
The acetate is of the Velvets' first studio recording session and features two fewer songs than the 11-track recording that was sold. However, at least four of the songs have completely different arrangements than those on the official release while the remainder have alternative sound mixes. Songs include such classics as Heroin, Venus in Furs, Femme Fatale and I'll Be Your Mirror, most written by Lou Reed, all of which have been cited as major influences by artists as varied as David Bowie, U2, REM, Joy Division, Roxy Music and Sonic Youth.
Before going with eBay, Hill and Isaacson had thought they might sell the acetate via live auction, perhaps at one of the many collectors conventions held in the U.S., where they figured it might fetch at least $40,000. Discussions, too, were held with record companies -- but at least one label shied away from a deal after it was discovered that a Japanese bootlegger had released a three-CD set of Velvet rarities, Ultimate Mono and Acetates Album, featuring some of the same mixes on the acetate. Had the Japanese material originated from tapes made from Hill's acetate decades before he purchased it? Or was there another acetate in circulation? No one seems to know.
Click Here To See The eBay Auction = http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300054910309 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/freeheadlines/LAC/20061205/VELVET05/thearts/Arts