The Warhol Banana on Velvet Underground’s first album is big news, and who owns the rights to the image is a slippery subject, whatever it’s appeal.
The album cover is famous for its Warhol design: a yellow banana sticker with "Peel slowly and see" printed near the tip. Those who did remove the banana skin found a pink, peeled banana beneath.
The band formed in NYC in 1964, with John Cale and Lou Reed. Warhol was the band’s producer and mentor, in addition to being a hugely successful and influential visual artist. They were his house band for the Factory, where he hosted parties and art happenings. They toured and performed with Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable which did multimedia events /performance art.
Warhol insisted the band play with the german singer Nico, and in 1967 they released the album with the banana, The Velvet Underground & Nico. This debut album was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as the 13th Greatest Album of All Time, and also the "most prophetic rock album ever made".
Brian Eno has summarized the albums influence by claiming that although the first album may have sold only 30,000 copies in its early years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."
Warhol died in 1986.
In January 2012 Cale and Reed sued the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts to prevent the foundation’s plan to license the banana design for cases, sleeves and bags for Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad. They claimed that although Warhol created the art, it was the band’s trademark.
In the lawsuit, the Foundation countered that the Velvet Underground had no enforceable trademark rights to the image.
In September a judge found that an agreement by the Warhol Foundation not to sue Velvet Underground for copyright infringement nixed any copyright questions.
But as of May 29 they have settled their suit against the nonprofit. The terms of the settlement were not immediately available.
Warhol designed many album covers, including the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, with a zipper embedded in the jacket, and other artist as diverse as Count Basie, Vladimir Horowitz, Chopin, Diana Ross, and Blondie.
Go to OldSchoolTees.com to buy the Velvet Underground tee with the Warhol banana, $17.95 for men, $25.95 for women.