The Life and Art of the Velvet Underground's First Drummer

Before Maureen Tucker took over on drums, the Velvet Underground had Angus MacLise on bongos and tablas. He quit before the band’s first paid gigs. As Lou Reed explains, “He found out that at a paying job he had to start and stop playing when told to. No one told Angus to stop playing.” Not just an offbeat drummer who was too bohemian for the Velvet Underground, MacLise was an artistic polyglot, a poet, a visual artist, an avant-garde performer and “a downtown shaman,” celebrated at Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise (1938-1979) exhibit at the Boo-Hooray Gallery in Chelsea.

The founding publisher of both the Dead Language Press in Paris and the Bardo Matrix/Dreamweapon Press with artist/filmmaker Ira Cohen, MacLise was a living link connecting the Beats, the Fluxus and the Factory scenes, and the hippies. He died and was cremated, Tibetan Buddhist funeral-style, in 1979 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The exhibit, which opens tomorrow and is the first overview of his lifework, includes the ephemera from MacLise’s suitcase lent by his widow Hetty, full of photographs, notes, poetry, and 100 reels of music, as well as sound installations at Boo-Hooray’s second location in Chinatown and film screenings at the Anthology Archives.

Click through some of the artifacts in our gallery.

One of the first photographs of the Velvet Underground with Angus MacLise, 1965, Ludlow Street. Courtesy Boo-Hooray Gallery.