« | Home | »

Bananas

Tags: | |

velvet underground and nico

The peelable banana that Andy Warhol designed for The Velvet Underground & Nico was a dry-run, of sorts, for the unzippable jeans he designed for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers – an early attempt, on the artist’s part, to answer the question: ‘Hey, is that a giant cock on your rock and roll album cover?’

sticky fingers

Warhol’s banana was perfectly ripe; maybe a bit rotten. Its peeled flesh was an almost fluorescent pink. Among other things, the banana was Warhol’s rejoinder to Magritte’s pipe-that-was-not-a-pipe. Like Magritte’s pipe, it’s popular with consumers. Today, you see the banana on tote bags, T-shirts, key-rings, baby bibs, duvet covers, cigarette lighters, athletic shoes and skateboard decks. Warhol was a teetotaller, but in 2002, a slightly modified version of the image appeared in advertisements for Absolut Vodka. And in 2011, when Incase, a California tech company, launched a Warhol line of iPhone and iPad cases, computer sleeves and shoulder bags, the banana was given pride of place. ‘We wanted the first release to be definitively Warhol,’ a representative of the Warhol Foundation explained. ‘So we went with the banana.’

It took Lou Reed and John Cale of the Velvet Underground some time to register their objections. When they did, in January 2012, it was in the form of a lawsuit against the foundation, which had licensed the banana to Incase. The musicians asked for damages based on their own, trademark-based claims to the image, which they called ‘a symbol, truly an icon, of the Velvet Underground’. Confusingly, they also said that the image belonged in the public domain. Part of the suit was later dismissed; last week, the parties agreed to a confidential settlement.

Any number of jokes presented themselves, about apples, bananas, the lawsuit itself – a tug-of-war over banana peels. (In 1981, Apple Computer settled a lawsuit brought by the Beatles’ holding company, Apple Corps; as one of the conditions, Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business.) One was also reminded that the Warhol Foundation, which does a great deal of good for working artists, can come off as a bit of a bully.

Comments on “Bananas”

  1. Timothy Rogers says:

    This is pretty funny – the dazed and decrepit in combat with the ripe and the rotten, one branch of commerce (rock-n-roll) going into the lists with another (branding and sales, sales sales!). Reed and the VU folks (ahem, old folks) have made no progress in clear thinking (or expression), so it’s hardly surprising that they confuse “intellectual property” with the public domain. Once the cutting edge of “revolutionary” pop-art – both music and painting – these ancient crones and their testators point out the ludicrous pretensions of an earlier era that keeps getting reborn, a veritable revenge of the cretins. In point of fact they should all be bowing in reverence to their unacknowledged sire, Walt Disney, pioneer of “Imagineering”. Thank you old geezers for fueling the engines of parody.

  2. eknm says:

    One day Timothy, if you eat your leafy greens, you may enjoy “old geezer” status. Chronological age is irrelevant to stoking the grimy parodic furnace, as you so ably demonstrate.

  3. Timothy Rogers says:

    Ah, dear Eknm, I’ve enjoyed that status for some time,as I fast approach my 70th year this Fall. But then I didn’t like the poseurs the first time around when they were my age-mates decades ago. Stick with the history, follow the money, and discard any illusions you might harbor about the art-commerce nexus. You’ll feel like you just ate some leafy greens yourself.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • pgillott on Wishful Thinking about Climate Change: Phrases like “monumental triumph” and (particularly) “renaissance for humankind” are overdoing it, but to suggest that there is no chance of ...
    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
    • martyn94 on The Price of Everything: If it's a joke at anyone's expense, it's surely at the expense of any super-rich who take it seriously. I used to skim it occasionally as a diversion ...
    • mideastzebra on Swedish-Israeli Tensions: Avigdor Liberman was not foreign minister November 2015.
    • lars hakanson on Exit Cameron: Europe will for good reason rejoice when the UK elects to leave. The country has over the years provided nothing but obstacles to European integration...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement