Marilyn Monroe would play bass, and a younger singer, Maud Butler, was in the forefront of singing, but was not the powerhouse that Bonnie eventually ended up being, with the duo continuing on in the studio. They were always a tight-knit group: Marilyn performed in the main room of their New York studio, while other siblings moved around and worked at their different jobs. Their first three albums were made in this environment. (On first meeting and interviewing Marilyn Monroe, I found she to be very different from what I imagined her to be.)
Allison Janney also starred in the second, third, and fourth albums, but never in the band as a lead. She has sung in bands before but with her own bands on occasion or as an occasional guest, but this would be the first time she would have been part of a full-fledged ensemble.
After her marriage to Don Paul, Marilyn would go on to star in the Broadway musical, It’s Really Hot . Marilyn won two Tonys for her performance as the Queen of Hearts, playing both her own and Janney’s part.
On her third album, the second of those titled This is It , though, it begins to look more like the story of a single career, as she did make a few appearances with the band, but by this point was out of their orbit (she would go on to sing with Lou Reed for his first album and later with the Grateful Dead).
As for one side of what made these albums stand out and that is their production. Those albums were mastered to be much higher quality than most other albums, and this is something that many artists were also striving for. They did, however, use some strange instruments and techniques to enhance the sound. For example, one song on the album was titled, “Shampoo,” and the title track had a piano being blown up about 20 times. The drummer kept playing the piano while the others kept playing strings, and it sounded really nice.
The studio recordings of The Velvet Underground were quite different and even more experimental than those of the Band (the band, for the most part, did not work with the same people, and their recordings did not always have the same sound and soundscapes to them) the sessions were done with a group of musicians from the New York-based band, the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). During its time, the group consisted of the band members Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Jeff Parker, and Bob Daisley, while other members played more in the background/background group. There was also a large crew of musicians on that album for their soundscapes, which had a large amount of influence over the sound of that album. The mixing was done by Dave Mason, an experimental sound engineer who later went on to work on several other big rock albums with Frank Zappa. It was another unique way to handle recording music, something that didn’t always catch on at the time. (The recording was partially supervised by the producer, Jerry Hopkins.)
To the band’s credit, the mixes were certainly at least as good as the performances on those albums would go on to be. The Velvet Underground were also very interested in using a good stereo field as a means of mixing, as they did on that album. If you are looking for just a great album, then I would rank the Electric Light Orchestra to have a slight edge over The Velvet Underground. It is a big book to read, but if you want to just dive right into the album, then you have to look into the band that produced it.
I want to thank Jody Cawley’s group/musicians for the opportunity to write about them. One thing I have tried to do is not discuss specific topics, but instead discuss the album and the overall sound of those albums when it comes down to doing it justice properly. If you are interested in reading my thoughts on the show and general things about the band, then keep reading below.
The Electric Light Orchestra’s Greatest Hits
Velvet Underground At Fillmore East, April, 1969 . The band was starting to lose some of its original fans before the Fillmore East show, which was being offered to many for the first time. The show was going very well, and the crowd was chanting many of the songs on the album, with The Velvet Underground playing what would become known as “the best rock music show ever” and it was great. At this concert, The band was actually doing something they had not done in over a decade they had even performed live with them at the same show as early as the 1970s, in the “Voodoo” era.
The next album they played (The Velvet Underground at the Fillmore West) was also good (Velvet Underground at the Fill