Recently brought on board here at the Arc, I was thrown into the archiving deep end by helping with the Mark Jacobson collection. As I like to tell Freddie Patterson, “It’s the collection that keeps on giving.” Not only are there many, many rare & desirable titles within, but what really astonishes me is the overall condition of pretty much everything. We’re talking about records that are 50 and 60 years old! Many in shrink wrap, white label promos, and first editions.
A personal high point for me, so far, has been working on the Velvet Underground box. Yes, that’s what I said, an entire box just for Velvet Underground albums. I quickly came across what would surely be at, or near, the top of any Velvets collector: A torso-edition of the first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. With a complete, unpeeled banana. The next question might be “Is it mono or stereo?” How about one of each? Just amazing! I think I can safely say that this will be the only time in my life that I’ll be holding one of each in my hands at the same time.
For those who may not know, the so-called torso-edition of the band’s epochal debut is referred to as that due to the use of a photo on the back cover that included actor, musician, and New York scenemaker, Eric Emerson. Looking to cash in at the time, Emerson threatened to sue the record label, or get paid off. The label chose to cover the photo on existing copies with a big black sticker with the band’s name on it, and Emerson was airbrushed out of future pressings. However, quite a few copies managed to escape unscathed, and these are highly sought after by anyone who collects the Velvet Underground.
This album, along with the rest of the Velvets output, mean the world to me. I was probably about 14 or 15 the first time I heard them, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t love them. The mysterious and dangerous sounding sensibility of the music was an immediate draw for me. Just stunning!
My brother had a copy of that album, peel and all (no torso) when we were kids. I think it was a given to use from a cousin that hated it, but thought kids would enjoy peeling the banana. We played with it until the sticker was in filthy pieces. We even doodled on the cover. I think my brother still has it.