Waiting For The Band: Andy Warhol’s Moe Gets Tied Up is No Cocksucker Blues


L-R: Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, John Cale, Lou Reed’s legs.
photo by Ted Barron

Moe Gets Tied Up
Screening at MoMA
Saturday, 12/6, 6 pm.

It’s got a snuff-film-meets-Three-Stooges title (Moe Gets Tied Up). It’s got a stellar cast (the Velvet Underground in youthful Factory splendor). And it’s got mega-ephemeral VU dork-out content (begins with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison tying Moe Tucker, quite inexpertly, to a chair, where she remains restrained for the entirety of the film). But the 66-minute Andy Warhol piece–screening again at MoMA on Saturday–is anything but titillating. In fact, it’s pretty goddamn tedious.

Advertised inaccurately on MoMA’s website as The Velvet Underground (actually a ’66 rehearsal film properly titled The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound), the single-camera/single-shot Moe Gets Tied Up is both far rarer and way weirder. The girl behind me grasped it early, explaining to her friends that it’d be okay to go to the lobby to text message during the film because, “It’s an Andy Warhol movie, which means you can, like, get up and walk around.”

In fact, the film’s central tension is whether Moe Tucker will be allowed to do just that (to, y’know, maybe play her drums or something). Mostly, it features the Velvets sitting around while tea-shaded Moe chills, stone-faced, despite being tied to a chair. “You don’t look very tortured,” Lou Reed remarks, both the film’s money quote and some of its only audible dialogue. Other highlights include the arrival of John Cale and his subsequent failed attempts to catch grapes in his mouth, Reed jitterbugging unselfconsciously (aww!), and Tucker finally cracking a smile as Morrison tries to balance a drumstick on his fingers.

The Velvets do, also, attempt to titillate. They break some glasses, crush a tomato under a Beatle boot, pour ketchup and milk on the ground for no good reason (shocking!), screw around with a whip (though not on each other), and tease Moe with a cigarette and various foodstuffs. Many walked out. The girl with the cell phone made it to the end.

Archive Highlights