Velvet Underground record for sale again

Thursday, December 14

NEW YORK (AP) - The cyberspace saga of The Velvet Underground's 40-year-old first recording, which fetched a false eBay bid of more than $155,000, ain't over — till it's over.

The vintage Velvet will be auctioned again starting Thursday afternoon. The original bid bit the dust when a young man in California e-mailed the seller confessing he doesn't even have enough money to buy gas, never mind the rare recording.

"OMG, I'm sooooo sorry," reads the message the seller says he got via eBay. "Seriously, I can barely afford gas for my car to get to work. What should we do? OMG, OMG, OMG. ... What do I do?"

The first auction ended Dec. 8, with eBay showing a final bid of $155,401 for the recording of music that ended up on the influential New York band's first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico." Warren Hill, a collector in Montreal who owns the acetate LP, says he bought it at a street flea market in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood for 75 cents in 2002.

The $155,401 bid was confirmed Wednesday by eBay spokeswoman Catherine England. She told The Associated Press, however, that eBay has no way to verify whether the bid is legitimate because "the transaction is between the buyer and seller."

The bidder has seven days to close on a deal, which is legally binding. After that, the seller — Saturn Records, of Oakland, Calif., representing Hill — may report a false bidder.

"I'm not going to sue him," a weary-sounding Hill said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Montreal. "I just want to sell it."

The 30-year-old owner of a small vintage record shop he runs from the back of his house said he found the ordeal "annoying." He's not a Velvet fan, preferring instead "pre-war blues" and gospel music.

The eBay lure is an in-studio acetate made during Velvet Underground's first recording in April 1966 at New York's Scepter Studios. Andy Warhol, who designed the album cover — a banana — helped promote the band, which left its musical stamp on many other rock stars.

The acetate pressing reportedly is only one of two in existence; the other is privately owned, with rumors circulating about that owner's identity.

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Velvet Underground, 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 the gritty realities of Manhattan's Lower East Side.

That first album featured Nico, the European model-actress-singer.

Hill's friend and fellow collector Eric Isaacson, of Mississippi Records, in Portland, Ore., had helped Hill decipher the nature of the lucky flea market 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 in the current issue of Goldmine Magazine. "I realized that we had something special."

The first 10-day eBay auction, which began Nov. 28, ended with the failed bid by the mystery buyer identified by the eBay screen name mechadaddy.

The bidder, apparently in his teens or twenties and wishing to remain anonymous, claims he left his work station while watching the auction and a co-worker made the bid, Isaacson told the AP.

"We're just writing him off as someone who made a mistake," he said. "We were duped as much as anybody."

The AP could not verify the bidder's identity, his e-mail or his telephone communications with Saturn and Isaacson. Saturn issued a statement Wednesday saying: "Velvet Underground eBay Auction Compromised - High bidder defaults claiming that six-figure bid was co-worker's prank."

The second auction will last seven days.

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