For all the avant-weirdness that was going on during the early sixties – and not just in New York, but all over the country – the Beatles performing on Ed Sullivan’s show during ’64 is still seen as a revelatory moment for many. Those Britishers unquestionably changed how fans take in pop music, but just a year later, the Velvet Underground performed. And, I think, we can all agree that Reed and company explored what rock and roll can do in a much more interesting way.
Even before that – and for some time – John Cale, who was probably as creatively responsible for the Velvets as Lou, was working in some odd sonic territory staked out by La Monte Young and a handful of other, then current, composers. On his own, on works like Sun Blindness, Cale gets into drone in a way the Velvets weren’t able to as a result of its reliance on a basic rock set up. Good stuff, if not essential.