Vintage rock band The Velvet Underground have initiated legal action against the Andy Warhol Foundation over the use of their album cover designed by the late artist
The band accuse the Foundation of trademark infringement, claiming that it has illegally allowed their iconic banana logo to be used on other products without permission. The banana image – on the front cover of their debut album in 1967 –, they say, is synonymous with the band’s image, despite never being officially copyrighted.
The band was formed by Lou Reed and John Cale, and Andy Warhol acted as the manager and producer. Warhol was responsible for the design of the debut album cover, and deployed a pop art-style image of a banana accompanied by the phrase ‘peel slowly and see’. On early editions of the album, the banana was actually peelable, with the skin being a sticker that could be removed.
The case claims that the banana ‘became a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground’, and that ‘The symbol has become so identified with the Velvet Underground that members of the public, particularly those who listen to rock music, immediately recognise the banana design as the symbol of the Velvet Underground’.
But now the image has proliferated across iPad covers and other accessories. Amd the band believe the Warhol foundation is responsible, guilty of ‘deceiving the public’ into the impression that they had given their ‘sponsorship or approval’.
The critically-acclaimed album, which featured the co-vocals of German femme fatale Nico, brought iconic tracks such I’m Waiting for the Man, Run, Run, Run, Venus in Furs, and Heroin, to air. In 2006, it was added to the US National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
Despite poor record sales during the 1960s, The Velvet Underground are now considered by many to be one of the most important bands of all time, inspiring key artists David Bowie and REM.
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