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The Velvet Underground (abbreviated as The Velvets or V.U.) were an American rock and roll band of the late 1960s. Its best-known alumni are Lou Reed and John Cale. Although never commercially successful, The Velvet Underground remain one of the most influential bands of their time: a famous remark, often attributed to Brian Eno, is that while only a few thousand people bought a Velvet Underground record upon their initial release, almost every single one of them was inspired to start a band. This is certainly an overstatement, but it does demonstrate their massive influence and cult following that has outlasted the group"s five-year existence. The Velvet Underground were one of the first rock music groups to experiment heavily with the form by incorporating avant-garde influences. The group"s often raw, sometimes difficult sound would influence many later punk, noise rock, and alternative music performers, and singer Lou Reed"s lyrics brought new levels of social realism and sleaze to rock. Critics Scott Isler and Ira Robbins argue that "The Velvet Underground marked a turning point in rock history. After the release of The Velvet Underground and Nico, knowing the power of which it was capable, the music could never be as innocent, as unselfconscious as before."  Early career The foundations for what would become The Velvet Underground were laid in late 1964. Lou Reed had performed with a few short-lived garage bands and had worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records, a job Reed described as "a poor man"s Carole King". Reed met John Cale, a Welshman who had moved to the United States to study classical music. Cale had worked with John Cage and La Monte Young, but was also interested in rock music. (Young"s use of extended drones would be a profound influence on the early Velvet"s sound).