According to the book The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side
, during Exploding Plastic Inevitable
shows, Warhol's right-hand man, Gerard Malanga, would get onstage in a leather outfit and crack a whip during this number. S&M was a common theme in 1960s culture, especially around Warhol's New York, and of course it was a large influence on early Velvet Underground songs.
The band's name itself came from journalist Michael Leigh's 1963 paperback The Velvet Underground
, an exposé of the sexual revolution going on in the USA at the time. The book included hyperbole-laden examinations of S&m, polyamory, homosexuality, and other practices then seen as "deviant." Tony Conrad, a filmmaker friend of the band, accidentally dropped the book for Lou Reed to find, who pounced on it and adopted the title; he liked it less for the S&m aspect and more for the word "underground" which would associate them with the underground film and music scene. Lou Reed himself in a 1969 interview with Open City
would later call the book "the funniest dirty book I've ever read."