NEW YORK - Forty years after it was made, The Velvet Underground's first recording has become a financial hit - in cyberspace. Bought for 75 cents four years ago at a Manhattan flea market, the rare recording of music that ended up on the influential New York band's first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico," sold on eBay for a closing bid of $155,401.
The buyer is a mystery, only identified by the eBay screen name: "mechadaddy."
But a greater mystery endures: How did the 12-inch, acetate LP end up buried in a box of records at a flea market?
Warren Hill, a collector from Montreal, bought the record in September 2002 at the flea market, according to an article written by his friend, Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records in Portland, Ore. in the current issue of Goldmine Magazine.
Isaacson helped Hill decipher the nature of the lucky find.
"We cued it up and were stunned - the first song was not 'Sunday Morning' as on the 'Velvet Underground & Nico' Verve LP, but rather it was 'European Son' - the song that is last on that LP, and it was a version neither of us had ever heard before!" Isaacson wrote.
The recording turned out to be an in-studio acetate made during Velvet Underground's first recording over four days in April 1966 at New York's Scepter Studios. The record reportedly is only one of two in existence; the other is privately owned, with rumors circulating about the owner's identity. Columbia Records rejected the album.
"I immediately took the needle off the record, and realized that we had something special," Isaacson wrote. Hill and Isaacson photographed the album, made a digital backup copy of the music, and decided to put it up for auction. The first bids, which began Nov. 28, rose $20,000.
Velvet Underground left its musical stamp on hundreds of other bands.
The band, named after a book about edgy sex practices in the 1960s, was fueled by Moe Tucker's hard-driving drumming, John Cale's anxious viola, and lead singer Lou Reed, whose lyrics spoke of drug-induced beauty and gritty Lower East Side realities.
The first album featured Nico, the European model-actress-singer in a first and last recorded appearance with the band.