Posts Tagged ‘John Cale’

No one wonders why bands still love to cover “I Wanna be Your Dog” in 2014. In fact, even in its much tamer studio version, The Stooges’ feedback-heavy force of a song still out-fought most hard-rockers in ’69, only being outdone by Detroit brothers The MC5. It’s a blistering piece of proto-punk, one that set the stage for any outlandish, fuzzed-out guitar line that would follow in a garage, and Iggy Pop’s unforgettable wails—“Now I wanna be your dog!”—can’t be unheard.

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges is one of the nastiest, filthiest, sexiest rock blasts of all time with its repetitive and monstrous guitar drone, Iggy‘s horny barks and that single-note piano riff played by producer John Cale (then member of The Velvet Underground). The single was released back in 1969 and a couple of decades later Sonic Youth played a S-H-A-T-T-E-R-I-N-G live version on some American TV Show with a bunch of crazed guests, including a far-out saxophonist and… a mental flutist.

I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a 1969 song by the American rock band The Stooges. The song is included on their self-titled debut album. Its memorable riff, composed of only three chords (G, F♯ and E), is played continuously throughout the song (excepting two brief 4-bar bridges). The 3-minute-and-9-second-long song, with its raucous, distortion-heavy guitar intro, pounding, single-note piano riff played by producer John Cale and steady, driving beat, established The Stooges at the cutting edge example of the heavy metal and punk sound.The song notably uses sleigh bells throughout.

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This 3 x CD Collection brings together a set of rare recordings by the Velvets, 50 plus years (for most) after they were first made and which will complete collections worldwide for the millions of fans still flying the flag for this strange collective. Everything about The Velvet Underground was astonishing. Take a female drummer with one beat (Mo Tucker), a classically trained Welshman (John Cale), a blonde German beauty who couldn’t sing (Nico), and two buddies from Syracuse University (Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed) who all came together as a band formed to promote Lou’s song ‘The Ostrich’.

Add another blonde who painted soup cans, a name derived from a novel about sado-masochism and Verve as a major label, and you arrive at the Velvet Underground, a band who rewrote the rules for music as we know it.

CD ONE features rehearsals for the band s first album, bizarrely broadcast across radio waves at the time, and which give a sense of quite how that seismic album came to be. The first disc also includes three rare live cuts recorded in NYC the same year.

CD TWO includes the group s show at La Cave in Cleveland, Ohio on 2nd October 1968, by which time John Cale had been fired from the group and had just been replaced by Doug Yule for this show.

CD THREE contains the concert given by Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris on 19th January 1972, a show as legendary as the band whose name remains the starting point for all modern music.

White Light/White Heat Magazine Ad

Recorded in a short flurry of studio sessions in September 1967, and released on January 30th, 1968, White Light/White Heat the band’s final studio album with co-founder and multi-instrumentalist John Cale  boasted none of the louche charm of the Velvets’ 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico; nor, for that matter, did it contain any of the hushed melodicism heard on the band’s self-titled 1969 LP, and it was utterly devoid of any instant classic-rock anthems . With its needle-pinning assault of overdriven instruments, and lyrics about methamphetamine abuse (the title track), botched medical procedures (“Lady Godiva’s Operation”), grisly violence (“The Gift”), cries from beyond the grave (“I Heard Her Call My Name”) and heroin-dealing drag queens (“Sister Ray”), White Light/White Heat was all about pushing the boundaries of sound and taste. Even 50 years after its initial release, it remains a bracing and challenging listen. “It’s a very rabid record,” Cale opined in the liner notes to the 1995 box set Peel Slowly and See. “The first one had some gentility, some beauty. The second one was consciously anti-beauty.”

BY MID-1967, ONLY a few months after The Velvet Underground’s debut album was released, their iconic ice queen singer Nico was a solo artist, and pop art svengali Andy Warhol was no longer managing and feeding the group. Warhol’s parting gift: the all-black cover idea for their follow-up – the album they would name “White Light/White Heat”. Meanwhile, the band scrabbled to survive in the drug-soaked art-scene demi-monde of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

“Our lives were chaos,” VU guitarist Sterling Morrison told me in 1994. “Things were insane, day in and day out: the people we knew, the excesses of all sorts. For a long time, we were living in various places, afraid of the police. At the height of my musical career, I had no permanent address.”

There were mounting internal tensions, too, over direction and control between Lou Reed and John Cale, the group’s founders, especially after their debut album’s failure to launch. “White Light/White Heat was definitely the raucous end of what we did,” Morrison affirmed. But, he insisted, “We were all pulling in the same direction. We may have been dragging each other off a cliff, but we were definitely all going in the same direction.”

From that turbulence and frustration, Reed, Cale, Morrison and drummer Moe Tucker created their second straight classic. Where The Velvet Underground And Nico was a demonstration of breadth and vision, developed in near-invisibility even before the band met Warhol  “We rehearsed for a year for that album, without doing anything else,” Cale claims  “White Light/White Heat” was a more compact whiplash: the exhilarating guitar violence starting with the title track, peaking in Reed’s atonal-flamethrower solo in I Heard Her Call My Name; the experimental sung and spoken noir of Lady Godiva’s Operation and The Gift; the propulsive, distorted eternity of sexual candour and twilight drug life, rendered dry and real in Reed’s lethal monotone, in Sister Ray.

“By this time, we were a touring band,” Cale explains. “And the sound we could get on stage – we wanted to get that on the record. In some performances, Moe would go up first, start a backbeat, then I would come out and put a drone on the keyboard. Sterling would start playing, then Lou would come out, maybe turn into a Southern preacher at the mike. That idea of us coming out one after the other, doing whatever we wanted, that individualism – it’s there on Sister Ray, in spades.”

White Light/White Heat was also the Velvets’ truest record, the most direct, uncompromised document of their deep, personal connections to New York’s avant-garde in the mid-’60s; the raw, independent cinema of Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas and Piero Heliczer; Cale’s pre-Velvets experiences in drone, improvisation and radical composition with John Cage and the early minimalists La Monte Young and Tony Conrad; Reed’s dual immersion, from his days at Syracuse University, in the free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor and the metropolitan-underworld literature of William Burroughs and Hubert Selby, Jr.

largely ignored by the music press at the time, White Light/White Heat would prove profoundly influential upon such artists as the Stooges, David Bowie, Jonathan Richman, Suicide, the Buzzcocks and a little band called Nirvana, to name a few – and in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked White Light/White Heat at Number 293 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album has also gained new fans over the years via various reissues, and will surely make some additional converts via its inclusion in Verve Records/UMe’s forthcoming 180-gram vinyl box set, The Velvet Underground, which drops February 23rd and will contain “definitive stereo editions” of the band’s four studio albums, as well as Nico’s 1967 album Chelsea Girl, and a two-LP recreation of the band’s much-mythologized “lost” album from 1969.

The White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition. Includes mono mix, outtakes and full live set from The Gymnasium, New York, April 30th, 1967.

White/Light Super Deluxe Edition 2013
Test Pressing White Light/White Heat
Test pressing of Lady Godiva’s Operation, the “experimental noir” from the White Light/White Heat sessions.

“I’m in there with a B.A. in English – I’m no naif,” Reed said shortly before his death. “And being in with that crowd, the improvisers, the film-makers, of course it would affect where I was going. We said it a hundred times; people thought we were being arrogant and conceited. We’re reading those authors, watching those Jack Smith movies. What did you think we were going to come out with?”

The Velvet Underground White Light/White Heat

The Velvet Underground as they were on the eve of White Light/White Heat’s release. from top left: Maureen “Moe” Tucker, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale.
The Velvets were also a rock band, with roots in that ferment but ambitions charged by the other modern action around them. “There was close competition with Bob Dylan,” Cale admits. “He was getting into people’s heads. We thought we could do that.”“Maybe our frustrations led the way,” Morrison said of White Light/White Heat. “But we were already pretty much into it. We had good amps, good distortion devices. We were the first American band to have an endorsement deal with Vox.” The album, he contended, “was just us using the Vox amps and playing them emphatically.”“They say rock is life-affirming music,” Reed says. “You feel bad, you put on two minutes of this – boom. There’s something implicit in it. And we were the best, the real thing. You listen to the Gymnasium tape [the live set included with the Deluxe reissue], this album – there is the real stuff. It’s aggressive, yes. But it’s not aggressive-bad. This is aggressive, going to God.”
Lou Reed

LOU REED  : 1942-2013. Guitarist/vocalist and primary songwriter. “No one censured it,” he said of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT. “Because no one listened to it.”

John Cale

JOHN CALE : Bass guitar/viola/keyboards. The classically trained Welshman provided the deadpan monologue for The Gift: “Everyone was hellbent on being heard.”

Sterling Morrison

STERLING MORRISON : 1942-1995. Guitar and “medical sound effects” on Lady Godiva’s Operation: “Maybe our frustrations led the way.”

Moe Tucker

MOE TUCKER : Drums. Provider of the group’s relentless, unfussy propulsion. “The songs were the songs,” she drily notes.

Andy Warhol

 In September 1967 at Mayfair Studios – located on Seventh Avenue near Times Square and the only eight-track operation in town – The Velvet Underground put White Light/White Heat to tape. “I think it was five days,” Cale has said.

Gary Kellgren, Mayfair’s house engineer, previously worked with the Velvets on part of the debut ‘Banana’ album and engineered the spring-’67 recording of Nico’s solo debut, Chelsea Girl. The producer, officially, was TomWilson, also with a track record with the group. In 1965, when the producer was still at Columbia, he invited Reed and Cale to play for him in his office. “We dragged Lou’s guitar, my viola and one amplifier up there,” said Cale. “We played Black Angel’s Death Song for him. He knew there was energy and potential.” At Mayfair, Cale mostly remembered Wilson’s “parade of beautiful girls, coming through all the time. He had an incredible style with women.”

White Light/White Heat Test Pressing
That’s the single! Test pressing of the ill-fated White Light/White Heat 45.

 

But the Velvets’ volume and aggression posed problems for the recording men, and Reed insisted that Kellgren simply walked out during Sister Ray. “At one point, he turns to us and says, ‘You do this. When you’re done, call me.’ Which wasn’t far from the record company’s attitude. Everything we did – it came out. No one censured it. Because no one listened to it.”

On Sister Ray, Reed sang live across the feral seesawing of the guitars, drums and Cale’s Vox organ as each pressed for dominance in the mix. “It was competition,” Cale says. “Everyone was hellbent on being heard.” The ending, though, was easy. “We just knew when it was over,” Morrison remembered. “It felt like ending. And it did.”

There was a real Sister Ray: “This black queen,” Reed says. “John and I were uptown, out on the street, and up comes this person – very nice, but flaming.” Reed wrote the words, a set of incidents and character studies, on a train ride from Connecticut after a bad Velvets show there. “It was a propos of nothing. ‘Duck and Sally inside’ – it’s a taste of Selby, uptown. And the music was just a jam we had been working on” – provisionally titled Searchin’, after one of the lyrics (“I’m searchin’ for my mainline”).

“The lyrics aren’t negative,” Reed argues. “White Light/White Heat – it has to do with methamphetamine. SisterRay is all about that. But they are telling you stories – and feelings. They are not stupid. And the rhythm is interesting. But you’d think that. I studied long enough.”

White Light/White Heat is renowned for its distortion and unforgiving thrust. But it also features the simple, airy yearning of Here She Comes Now, one of the Velvets’ finest ballads. And there are telling, human details even in the noise, like the breakdown at the end of White Light/White Heat, when Cale’s frantic, repetitive bass playing leaps forward in an out-of-time spasm. “I’m pretty sure it broke down,” he says of his part, “because my hand was falling off.”

White Light/White Heat Magazine Ad

Lady Godiva’s Operation was, Cale explains, “a radio-theatre piece, trying to use the studio to create this panorama of a story” – lust, transfiguration and ominously vague surgery that goes fatally wrong. The Gift was just the band and Cale’s rich Welsh intonation. Reed wrote the story – an examination of nerd-ish obsession peppered with wily minutiae (the Clarence Darrow Post Office) and ending in sudden death – at Syracuse University, for a creative writing class. Reed: “The idea was two things going at once”  Cale in one stereo channel, music in the other. “If you got tired of the words, you could just listen to the instrumental.”

Cale’s reading was a first take. The sound of the blade plunging through the cardboard, “right through the centre of Waldo Jeffers’ head,” was Reed stabbing a canteloupe with a knife. Frank Zappa, also working at Mayfair with The Mothers Of Invention, was there. “He said, ‘You’ll get a better sound if you do it this way,’” Reed recalled. “And then he says, ‘You know, I’m really surprised how much I like your album,’” referring to the ‘Banana’ LP. “Surprised? OK.” Reed smiled. “He was being friendly.”

Wayne McGuire’s ecstatic review of White Light/White Heat, in a 1968 issue of rock magazine Crawdaddy, cited Reed’s playing in “I Heard Her Call My Name” as “the most advanced lead guitar work I think you’re going to hear for at least a year or two.” McGuire also noted the jazz in there, comparing the album – especially SisterRay – to recordings by Cecil Taylor and the saxophonists John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. “Sister Ray is much like [Coltrane’s] Impressions,” McGuire wrote, “in that it is a sustained exercise in emotional stampede and modal in the deepest sense: mode as spiritual motif, mode as infinite musical universe.”.The Velvet Underground 1968

There was a single, the title track coupled with Here She Comes Now. It didn’t help. By the fall of 1968, Cale was gone. Forced to leave the group he co-founded, the Welshman embarked on a second career as a producer, composer and solo artist that continues to this day.The Velvets went back on the road, and soon into the studio, with a new bassist, Doug Yule. They found a new power in quiet and more decorative pop on their next two albums, until Reed left in 1970 to begin, eventually, his own extraordinary solo life. Live, without Cale, the Velvets still played Sister Ray.The “Deluxe” collection includes Cale’s last studio sessions with The Velvet Underground. Temptation Inside Your Heart and Stephanie Says were recorded in New York in February, 1968, produced by the band for a prospective single (according to Cale and Morrison). Temptation was their idea of a Motown dance party, with congas and comic asides caught by accident as Reed, Cale and Morrison overdubbed their male-Marvelettes harmony vocals. Stephanie Says was the first of Reed’s portrait songs, named after women in crisis and overheard conversation (Candy Says, Lisa Says, Caroline Says I and II). Cale’s viola hovered through the arrangement like another singer: graceful and comforting.

White Light/White Heat Master Tape
Original studio tape box for I Think I’m Falling In Love, aka Guess I’m Falling In Love. An instrumental outtake on the White Light/White Heat reissue, a vocal version also appears on the Live At The Gymnasium disc.
White Light/White Heat Master Tape
The original mono master tape of the White Light/White Heat album. Note correction of “Searching”, the original title of Sister Ray.

On a spare day in May, 1968, between shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Velvets returned to L.A.’s T.T.G. Studios – where they had worked on The Velvet Underground And Nico – and taped two versions of another viola feature, Hey Mr. Rain. In a 1994 interview, Cale described the song’s droning melancholy and rhythmic suspense as “trying to have a pressure cooker. That’s what those songs were about – Sister Ray, European Son [on The Velvet Underground And Nico], Hey Mr. Rain. They were things we could exploit on stage, flesh out and improvise. But we were driving it into the ground. We hadn’t spent any time quietly puttering around the way we did before the first album.”

The classic quartet cut another song at T.T.G., a recently unearthed attempt at Reed’sBeginning To See The Light. The song, briskly redone with Yule, would open Side Two of the Velvets’ third album. This take has a vintage kick – Martha & The Vandellas’ Dancing In The Street taken at the gait of I’m Waiting For The Man. You also hear the impending change. “Here comes two of you/Which one would you choose?,” Reed sings, an intimation of the cleaving that would alter the Velvets for good.

“John has said we didn’t get to finish what we started – that is sadly true,” Reed acknowledged. “However, as far as we got, that was monumental.” White Light/White Heat, everything leading to it and gathered here – “I would match it,” he says, “with anything by anybody, anywhere, ever. No group in the world can touch what we did.”

Back in 1994,  Moe Tucker was asked about the fuzz and chaos of White Light/White Heat how much they reflected the daily trials and tensions of being The Velvet Underground, always first and alone in their ideals and attack. She replied with her usual, common sense: “I don’t know if I go along with that. The songs were the songs, and the way we played them was the way we each wanted to play them.”

Anything else, she declared with a grin, was “a little too philosophical.”

“THAT WAS MONUMENTAL. I WOULD MATCH IT WITH ANYTHING BY ANYBODY, ANYWHERE, EVER. NO GROUP IN THE WORLD CAN TOUCH WHAT WE DID.”– Lou Reed

The album’s ugly and aggressive sound was an intentional reaction against the flower-power vibe of the “Summer of Love”.
When the Velvet Underground entered New York’s Mayfair Sound Studios to begin work on the album in September 1967, the vaunted “Summer of Love” was still grooving in San Francisco and blissed-out hippie scenes were something the Velvets wanted absolutely no part of. “Inspired by media hype, and encouraged by deceitful songs on the radio (Airplane, Mamas and Papas, Eric Burdon), teenage ninnies flocked from Middle-America out to the coast,” Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison remembered in Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga’s Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story. “And so, at the height of the ‘Summer of Love,’ we stayed in NYC and recorded White Light/White Heat, an orgasm of our own.”

“It was very funny – until there were a lot of casualties,” said Lou Reed of the hippie movement in a 1987 Rolling Stone interview. “Then it wasn’t funny anymore. I don’t think a lot of people realized at the time what they were playing with. That flower-power thing eventually crumbled as a result of drug casualties and the fact that it was a nice idea but not a very realistic one. What we, the Velvets, were talking about, though it seemed like a down, was just a realistic portrayal of certain kinds of things.”

The album’s fuzzed-out guitar sounds were the direct result of the band’s endorsement deal with Vox, the British musical-equipment manufacturer.
Initially popularized in America by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and other British Invasion acts who used their amplifiers, organs and guitars, England’s Vox company struck an endorsement deal with the Velvet Underground in 1966, making Reed & Co. one of (if not the) first American bands to endorse their gear. The powerful Vox amps and fuzz pedals enabled the band to experiment with volume and distortion, which they pushed to the fullest extent on White Light/White Heat. “Those guys used Vox amps and Vox fuzz boxes for the first two albums,” Velvets obsessive Jonathan Richman explained to Bockris and Malanga. “On stuff like ‘Sister Ray’ and ‘The Gift,’ the fuzz is important. Vox fuzz bozes are distinct from other fuzz sounds. Lou used to use the built-in mid-range boost peculiar to Vox amplifiers a lot.” “White Light/White Heat was just us using the Vox amps and playing them emphatically,” added Morrison, with some degree of understatement.

Though generally thought to be about methamphetamine, “White Light/White Heat” may also have been partly inspired by Lou Reed’s interest in metaphysics.
Given Lou Reed and John Cale’s well-known affection for methamphetamine use during the Velvets’ early years, the album’s title track has long been interpreted as nothing more than an enthusiastic ode to shooting speed. But according to Richie Unterberger’s White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day by Day, Reed hinted in a November 1969 radio interview that the song may have also had something to do with his lesser-known interest in metaphysical studies. “I’ve been involved and interested in what they call ‘white light’ for a long time,” he told an interviewer at KVAN in Portland, Oregon, noting his recent investigation of a Japanese form of healing “that’s a way of giving off white light.” In the same interview, he also cited Alice Bailey’s A Treatise on White Magic – which includes instructions on how to “call down a stream of pure White Light” – calling it “an incredible book.”

Lou Reed used a cantaloupe on the album, at the urging of Frank Zappa.
On the track “The Gift,” John Cale reads a short story, written by Reed, about a lovesick young man named Waldo Jeffers, who tries to surprise his girlfriend by mailing himself to her in a large cardboard box, but meets a grisly end when her unsuspecting friend uses a sheet-metal cutter to open the package. “I wrote ‘The Gift’ while I was at college,’ Reed told Lester Bangs in a May 1971 Creem Magazine interview. “I used to write lots of short stories, especially humorous pieces like that. So. one night Cale and I were sitting around and he said, ‘Let’s put one of those stories to music.'”

In order to achieve the sound of a blade plunging through Jeffers‘ skull, Reed (depending on who’s telling the story) either stabbed a cantaloupe with a knife, or smashed it with a wrench – directed by none other than Frank Zappa, who was recording with the Mothers of Invention at the same studio. “He said, ‘You’ll get a better sound if you do it this way,'” Reed later recalled  “And then he says, ‘You know, I’m really surprised by how much I like your album.'”

“Here She Comes Now” was originally written to be sung by Nico.
A sequel to Lou Reed’s mysterious character study “Femme Fatale,” “Here She Comes Now” was originally intended as a vehicle for Nico, the German chanteuse who – at the suggestion of then-manager Andy Warhol – had sung “Femme Fatale,” “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties” on the Velvet Underground’s first album. She reportedly sang “Here She Comes Now” at a few live performances, as well; and while there’s no recorded version of the song with her on vocals, it’s easy to imagine her Teutonic tones icily caressing lines like “She looks so good/But she’s made out of wood.” But after the band parted ways with both Warhol and Nico in the spring of 1967, it fell to Lou Reed to record the vocals of the song for White Light/White Heat.

Lou Reed’s guitar solo on “I Heard Her Call My Name” was a tribute to jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
Throughout his career, Reed often spoke about his love of free jazz, and specifically the music of saxophonist Ornette Coleman. “There were two sides of the coin for me,” he said to David Fricke in 1989. “R&B, doo-wop, rockabilly. And then Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, stuff like that. When I was in college, I had a jazz radio show. I called it Excursion on a Wobbly Rail, after a Cecil Taylor song. I used to run around the Village following Ornette Coleman wherever he played.”

Reed’s free jazz influence is apparent on several of White Light/White Heat’s tracks – especially on the vicious, mind-splitting guitar solo in “I Heard Her Call My Name,” which found him cranking up his amp and channeling his inner Coleman. “I wanted to play like that,” Reed said. “I used the distortion to connect the notes, so you didn’t hear me hesitating and thinking. … I never thought of it as violent. I thought it was amazing fun.”

A studio engineer was so put off by “Sister Ray” that he actually left the studio while it was being recorded.
Clocking in at 17-and-a-half minutes on record – and often much longer in concert – the tawdry epic “Sister Ray” was one of Andy Warhol’s favorite songs from the Velvet Underground’s live sets. “When we were making the second record,” Lou Reed “He said, ‘Now you gotta make sure that you do the ‘sucking on my ding-dong’ song.’ ‘Okay, Andy.’ He was a lot of fun, he really was.”

However, one of the engineers working on White Light/White Heat  either Gary Kellgren or Val Valentine, both of whom worked on the record in an engineering capacity was far less amused when the band was recording the improvisatory track in the studio. In Anthony DeCurtis’ Lou Reed: A Life, Reed recounts that, “When we recorded ‘Sister Ray,’ the engineer stood up and said, ‘Listen, I’m leaving. You can’t pay me enough to listen to this crap. I’ll be down in the commissary getting coffee. When you’re done, hit that button and come get me.’ That’s completely true.”

Producer Tom Wilson spent more time chasing women than actually overseeing the album.
Though White Light/White Heat producer Tom Wilson who had also helmed albums by Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Mothers of Invention – had previously worked with the Velvets on The Velvet Underground and Nico, the band wasn’t always thrilled with his involvement (or lack thereof) during the sessions for White Light/White Heat. “He knew more, uh, ladies of the night than there are women on this planet,” John Cale recalled to Creem in 1987. “He’s a swinger par excellence. It was unbelievable, a constant parade into that studio. He was inspired, though, and used to joke around to keep everybody in the band light.” Velvets drummer Moe Tucker was particularly incensed when Wilson became too distracted by what she described as “the blondes running through the studio” to remember to turn up the microphones on her drums during a specific break in “Sister Ray.” “I could have killed myself,” she later complained to the Velvet Underground fanzine What Goes On. “‘Cause we did two takes of that as I recall, and it came out nice, it was really good, and here’s this part that drops out the bottom. I was tapping on the rim, and it wasn’t recorded. And of course everybody thinks that I stopped playing the drums, which infuriates me.”

The album’s cover art was a “parting gift” from Andy Warhol.
When the Velvets and Andy Warhol parted ways shortly after the release of The Velvet Underground & Nico, the split wasn’t exactly an amicable one. “He sat down and had a talk with me,” Lou Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. “[He said] ‘You gotta decide what you want to do. Do you want to keep just playing museums from now on and the art festivals? Or do you want to start moving into other areas? Lou, don’t you think you should think about it?’ So I thought about it, and I fired him. Because I thought that was one of the things to do if we were going to move away from that. He was furious. I’d never seen Andy angry, but I did that day. He was really mad. Called me a rat. That was the worst thing he could think of.”

But by the end of 1967, Warhol’s anger had subsided enough for him to suggest an idea for the design of White Light/White Heat’s album cover. According to a December 1967 letter from Lou Reed to Gerard Malanga, it was Warhol’s idea to use “a black-on-black picture of a motorcyclist tattoo by Billy [Name]. Beautiful. ALL BLACK!” Reed had seen the tattoo in question on the bicep of actor Joe Spencer in Warhol’s film Bike Boy; and with Warhol’s permission, Factory artist Billy Name blew up a black-and-white negative frame from the film and set it against a black background, creating a cover that was the very antithesis of the psychedelic, Sgt. Pepper–inspired imagery that was everywhere at the time.

“White Light/White Heat” and “Here She Comes Now” were banned in several radio markets because of their content.
Though the songs “White Light/White Heat” and “Here She Comes Now” sounded like nothing else on the American airwaves in late 1967, Verve, the band’s label, decided to release the songs – the two shortest cuts on White Light/White Heat – to radio on a seven-inch single. Unsurprisingly, the single stiffed, and so few were even pressed that original copies now change hands for hundreds of dollars. But while the songs had little commercial appeal to begin with, members of the band would claim on several occasions that they had actually been banned – the raging “White Light/White Heat” because of its drug references, and the quieter “Here She Comes Now” due to what some programmers perceived as sexual content. “We put out ‘Here She Comes Now’ in San Francisco and they said, ‘That’s about a girl coming,'” Reed recalled. “And I said, ‘Well no, it’s not, it’s about somebody coming into a room.’ And then I listened to the record and I realized it probably was about a girl coming as a matter of fact, but then again, so what? But we were banned again.”

WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT REISSUE VINYL, DELUXE & SUPER DELUXE EDITIONS

White Light/White Heat Deluxe Edition

“NO ONE LISTENED TO IT. BUT THERE IT IS, FOREVER – THE QUINTESSENCE OF ARTICULATED PUNK. AND NO ONE GOES NEAR IT.”Lou Reed, August, 2013,
Thanksto David Fricke and Mojo Magazine for words

A half a century ago this year, the Velvet Underground released its debut LP, “The Velvet Underground & Nico.” This enduringly transgressive album would go on to earn the music-industry axiom, that although relatively few people bought it initially, everyone who did started a band.

The Velvet Underground — featuring Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker, with additional vocals from the German singer Nico — would enter Scepter Studios in New York to record its first professional demos of songs like “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “Heroin.”

One night at a club in New York — described in The New York Times then as “the temporary cinema-discotheque that Andy Warhol , the apostle of Pop Culture, has installed at 23 St. Marks Place” it was all so new. Attendees, wrote, you could “grope their way to the dance floor in blackness that is broken only by hallucinatory flashes of multicolored lights in order to wriggle, writhe and tremble to the music of the Velvet Undergrounds, a four-piece band whose chanteuse is a fashion model answering only to the name of Nico.” The group was merely a detail in the story and getting its name right was not yet a priority.

The concert was part of Warhol’s traveling multimedia shows, known as the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which mixed projected films, live music and dance. (The entry fee for the night: $2.) Gerard Malanga, a Warhol associate and Factory collaborator, can be seen shimmying onstage with the fresh-faced Velvets. “It was an ephemeral but everlasting experience,” he recalled in an interview this week.

While the images show a split between the squares seated, straight-faced, at clothed tables, and those letting loose on the dance floor, Mr. Malanga remembered the atmosphere as “one of participation and excitement.”

“The crowd looks like they were all grown-ups everybody looks so well-behaved,” he said. “I do remember it being younger and more lively.”

In the celebration of the 50-year anniversary of “The Velvet Underground & Nico” — plus the news that Lou Reed’s personal archive has now been acquired by the New York Public Library.

By now it’s a pretty famous story of how some guy found a one-of-a-kind acetate pressing of an early, 1966 version of what would become “The Velvet Underground and Nico” album on a New York City street for 75 cents, then sold it on eBay for 25 Grand. It’s known as “The Norman Dolph Acetate”,
The acetate itself was of course very scratchy. This bootleg vinyl released a couple years ago, apparently from Sweden but who knows, offers a beautifully cleaned-up version of the acetate. But you should also go to WFMU’s blog and get the original, scratchy version. For comparison at least. Or history. Apparently this recording was sent back from Columbia Records with a note that said, “You have got to be fucking kidding!” Note that this version of the LP starts off, audaciously, with an even noisier version of European Son, a whole minute longer at 8:49 and a whole lot more cacophonous than the final version which ended up at the opposite end, closing the LP. Also notable are very different versions of “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Venus In Furs”.

That album was The Velvet Underground and Nico, a uniquely groundbreaking release from a band of arty New York misfits and marketed by the creative whims of one of the most iconic figures of the time:Andy Warhol . The cornerstone of the Velvet Underground’s image and sound was the songwriting of Lou Reed. A socially-awkward Jewish kid from Long Island, Reed’s musical voice, like so many others, was forged in pop and in pain. He taught himself how to play R&B songs on guitar by listening to the radio, eventually forming a doo-wopish group as a teen. Reed also began suffering panic attacks and after a mental breakdown following his first semester at NYU, his parents submitted him for electroshock therapy.

“Panic attacks and social phobias beset him,” wrote Reed’s sister, Merrill Reed Weiner, in 2015. “He possessed a fragile temperament. His hyper-focus on the things he liked led him to music and it was there that he found himself.”

But Lou Reed’s love of music became his guide, and rock ‘n’ roll became his voice. He eventually landed work as a pop songwriter, churning out middling hits for Pickwick Records while composing songs for himself on the side. His approach was to keep things simple and direct.

“I studied classical piano, and the minute I could play something I started writing new things,” Reed said in 2004. “And I switched to guitar and did the same thing. And the nice thing about rock is, besides the fact that I was in love with it, anyone can play that. And to this day anyone can play a Lou Reed song. Anybody. It’s the same essential chords, just various ways of looking at them. There is nothing special about it, and it only becomes special when I can’t do it. When I can’t do it I’m very impressed by the person who can, and when I can do it, it means nothing. But I would write new things from the day I could play anything.”

Reed had been inspired by as much as R&B as pop, and his edgy approach belied a music lover whose tastes were informed by a wide variety of influences.

“There were two sides of the coin for me: That kind of music—R&B, doo-wop, rockabilly. And then Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, stuff like that,” Reed told rock journalist David Fricke in 1989. “When I was in college, I had a jazz radio show. I called it Excursion on a Wobbly Rail, after a Cecil Taylor song. I used to run around the Village following Ornette Coleman wherever he played. There was his song ‘Lonely Woman,’ Charlie Haden’s bass on that [he hums the riff]. Extraordinary.”

What would become the Velvet Underground started in 1964, when Reed met experimental instrumentalist John Cale and formed a band called The Primitives. With Reed on guitar and Cale on virtually everything else, they eventually added guitarist Sterling Morrison and percussionist Angus Maclise. After a short stint as The Falling Spikes, the fledgling quartet dubbed themselves “The Velvet Underground” after Michael Leigh’s book about sexual subculture in the 1960s. After Maclise suddenly left the group prior to their first paying gig, Morrison brought in Maureen Tucker to play drums. With Tucker’s unique approach (she used mallets more than drumsticks and never played cymbals), the Velvet Underground’s classic sound began to come together.

Gigging around New York City, the band eventually was introduced to Andy Warhol and became fixtures at The Factory, his famous studio in the Decker Building on Union Square West. Warhol insisted on becoming their manager, and centered the Velvet Underground in his ambitious pop art roadshow, Exploding Plastic Inevitable, with the VU’s music combined in showcase with experimental films from Warhol and his associates. The exposure raised the band’s profile significantly—despite the fact that Warhol had little-to-no influence on their actual approach or sound and rarely operated as a traditional manager for the band.

“We needed someone like Andy,” John Cale has said . “He was a genius for getting publicity. Once we were in Providence to play at the Rhode Island School of Design and they sent a TV newsman to talk to us. Andy did the interview lying on the ground with his head propped up on one arm. There were some studded balls with lights shining on them and when the interviewer asked him why he was on the ground, Andy said, ‘So I can see the stars better.’ The interview ended with the TV guy lying flat on his back saying, ‘Yeah, I see what you mean.’”

“I loved him on sight, he was obviously one of us,” said Reed in 2004. “He was right. I didn’t know who he was, I wasn’t aware of any of that, amazingly enough. But he was obviously a kindred spirit if ever there was one, and so smart with charisma to spare. But really so smart. And for a quote ‘passive’ guy, he took over everything. He was the leader, which would be very surprising for a lot of people to work out. He was in charge of us, everyone. You look towards Andy, the least likely person, but in fact the most likely. He was so smart, so talented and 24 hours a day going at it.”

It was Warhol who famously pushed the Velvet Underground to add German model Nico as they worked on their first album—a move that the band resented.

“We were together as a band, and then Nico showed up at the Factory,” said Morrison in 1980. “Andy said, ‘Oh, here we have Nico. Would you like her to sing with you?’ We said, ‘Well, we couldn’t dis-like it.’ That’s how we became the Velvet Underground and Nico. She just came kind of creeping in. We knew that it couldn’t last, because we didn’t have that many songs she could sing. Lou and I cranked out some songs for her. ‘Femme Fatale’—she always hated that. Nico, whose native language is minority French, would say, ‘The name of this song is ‘Fahm Fahtahl.’ Lou and I would sing it our way. Nico hated that. I said, ‘Nico, hey, it’s my title, I’ll pronounce it my way.’”

“Lou and I were sort of startled,” Cale recalled  “Moe didn’t know what to make of it. And Sterling was harumphing . . . But, y’know, after a little bit, you got to understand Andy, and that was really pure Andy. Everybody suddenly started looking at us in a different way.”

The VU began recording the album in the spring of 1966 at the ramshackle Scepter Studios in New York City. The original acetate was shopped around to labels and routinely dismissed, prompting the band to re-record several songs. To facilitate a more marketable approach to the music, producer Tom Wilson, who had produced Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel , was brought in to remix some tracks. In Los Angeles, the Velvet Underground would re-record “Waiting For the Man,” “Venus and Furs” and “Heroin,” a seven-minute composition Lou Reed had begun as far back as 1964. At Wilson’s urging, the band also recorded the more radio-friendly “Sunday Morning.”

“I’d been around studios before, writing and recording these cutout-bin kind of records, trendy songs that sell for ninety-nine cents,” Reed said in 1989. “But Andy absorbed all the flak. Then MGM said they wanted to bring in a real producer, Tom Wilson. So that’s how you got ‘Sunday Morning,’ with all those overdubs—the viola in the back, Nico chanting. But he couldn’t undo what had already been done.”

For all of its visceral feel and focus, the debut album from the Velvet Underground opens with this rather delicate ballad. “Sunday Morning” it features Lou Reed cooing in his most preciously girlie voice about “all the streets you cross not so long ago.” The song is a beautiful ode to paranoia (“Watch out—the world’s behind you”), and an early indicator that Reed was capable of remarkably simple melodicism that rivaled the more mainstream songwriters of the era while not directly emulating any of them. “Sunday Morning” was explicitly written to be a single, and is one of the most pop-friendly songs on the album. Wilson wanted the tune to be a showcase for Nico; nonetheless, it was Reed who sang the lilting lead vocal.

The jaggedly jaunty classic “I’m Waiting For the Man” sits somewhere between Bob Dylan, Lead Belly and glam rock, laying a sonic foundation on which David Bowie would build his church (Bowie recorded a live cover in 1972). The soundtrack for a white hipster’s travels uptown to score drugs, Reed’s crass “Hey white boy, what you doin’ uptown?” jive along with the strutting rhythm sounded more urban and streetwise than anything else happening in rock at the time. The declaration of “Man, you gotta split ‘cause he got no time to waste” captured the awkward hastiness of scoring some shit, with Reed’s chugging chords and Morrison’s Cropper-esque guitar lines swerving against the melody throughout.

The dirge-like “Venus In Furs” drips with sex and oozes doom. It’s an S&M-driven masterpiece that features Cale’s dissonant viola set against Maureen Tucker’s thumping drums. Reed’s lyrics are inspired by the novella of the same name—by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (“I didn’t write the book. But what a great book to throw into a song,” Reed would say in 1988), with declarations to “Strike dear mistress, and cure his heart” and references to “Sevrin” who “awaits you there.” The primary narrative of the novella describes the suprasexuality of Severin von Kusiemski, who is smitten with a woman named Wanda von Dunajew and longs to be dominated by her in degrading ways.

The forced addition of Nico adds an off-kilter element to the three songs on which she’s featured. Her icy vocal is best highlighted on the swirling midtempo “Femme Fatale,” a song inspired by Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick. Warhol had requested Reed write a dedication to Sedgwick specifically, and “Femme Fatale” would be the first of many Reed compositions inspired by personalities he’d met at Warhol’s Factory. Reed’s observations of the people at Warhol’s Factory also inspired the Nico-led “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Cale’s repetitive piano drives the melancholy feel, as the lyrics detail a sad woman who has lost her family. She was among the personalities Reed had encountered around Warhol.

Despite Reed’s declaration that “if anybody played a blues lick [in the band], they would be fined,” “Run Run Run” sounds like Slim Harpo sitting in with a garage band, with a driving rhythm turned on its ear and driven dissonant with Morrison’s jagged leads and Reed’s abrasive solo. It’s another song focused squarely on New York City junkie life, with lyrics that detail strung-out characters Teenage Mary, Margarita Passion, Seasick Sarah, and Beardless Harry, who need to “get a fix” and “rode the trolleys down to 47” to “get himself to heaven.”

“There She Goes Again” is the album’s most explicitly R&B-influenced track; the opening guitar rhythm is directly lifted from Marvin Gaye’s 1962 hit “Hitch Hike” and the backing vocals are straightforward harmonizing—or at least as close to it as the Velvet Underground got. Reed’s lyrics focus on the daily life of a prostitute: “She’s out on the streets again / She’s down on her knees, my friend / But you know she’ll never ask you please again.” The song never presents the woman as a tragic figure. In keeping with many of Reed’s characters, her life is just a reflection of reality—not a cautionary tale: “Now take a look, there’s no tears in her eyes / Like a bird, you know she would fly, what can you do / You see her walkin’ on down the street / Look at all your friends that she’s gonna meet…”

Nico’s vocals on “I’ll Be Your Mirror” became a source of frustration for Morrison and Reed. The German model seemed to be adamant in singing the song aggressively, which neither of the band members felt was suitable. After Morrison decided that they would scrap the song if she couldn’t get it right, Nico sang the final vocal in one take. It would be one of the first commercially available songs by the Velvet Underground—a single that was released in July 1966, almost a year before the album itself.

Cale’s experimentalism was at the core of “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” with dissonant viola and droning rhythms. The Chuck Berry-esque guitar riff repeats early on and slowly descends into avant-noise with feedback and distortion—as well as a crash of plates, courtesy of Cale—with Reed singing dismissive lyrics aimed at writer Delmore Schwartz, who was a mentor to Reed during the rocker’s time at Syracuse University. The lyrics don’t directly mention Schwartz, but original pressings of the album titled the track “European Son (Dedication to Delmore Schwartz.)”

One of the most harrowing and beautiful drug songs ever recorded, “Heroin” is an epic that seems to define the album. Opening with Reed’s distinctively melodic guitar lines and building into a cacophony of sound that evokes the rush of shooting up, it was a daring record—even during the “mind expanding” rhetoric of the 1960s. Hippie bands were singing about marijuana and LSD, but the darkness and danger of heroin was something else entirely. The element of release was there, but this was a harder addiction—something that the idealistic flower-power crowd hadn’t broached on record. Reed relished standing apart from what was supposedly the counterculture of the time.

In a 1987 interview, he told Joe Smith, “When [bands] did try to get, in quotes, ‘arty,’ it was worse than stupid rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “What I mean by ‘stupid,’ I mean, like, the Doors. I never liked the Beatles, I thought they were garbage. If you say, ‘Who did you like?’ I liked nobody.”

The Velvet Underground’s “arty outsider” ethos and fiercely New York image went against the grain in 1967, but their association with Andy Warhol kept the band’s profile relatively high for an act that was never very mainstream. The weight of Warhol’s image over the band came to be something that the Velvet Underground chafed against—especially after The Velvet Underground and Nico was released with the “produced by Andy Warhol” tag on the sleeve.

John Cale fully understood the power of Warhol’s vision when the he saw what would become the iconic album cover for The Velvet Underground and Nico. The inspiration was purely spontaneous and indicative of how Warhol saw high art in the everyday. Warhol had noticed a magazine in the waiting room at an earlier doctor’s appointment; there was an ad inside that featured a banana with a peel-away sticker that revealed the nutrients in a banana. “He called me over and showed me: this is the album cover,” Cale said in 2011. “He said ‘What do you think of this as an album cover?’ I thought it was amazing.”

The Velvet Underground and Nico was finally released on March 12th, 1967, but a pending lawsuit from actor Eric Emerson (his image was inadvertently featured in the background of the album’s back sleeve, in a photo of the band performing) led to it being shelved briefly and redistributed that summer. With the Summer of Love in full swing and much of the world fawning over Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper…, The Velvet Underground and Nico barely made a commercial dent. Shortly thereafter, the band broke from Warhol. And Nico, always viewed as a temporary affiliate of the Velvet Underground as opposed to an actual member, went her own way. She would release six solo albums before her death in 1988.

The Velvet Underground, of course, would release three more seminal albums, White Light/White Heat, their eponymous 1969 album, and 1970’s Loaded, before ultimately deteriorating (Cale would leave after White Light/White Heat and be replaced by Doug Yule; Reed and Morrison left the band after Loaded.) Cale would become one of the world’s most highly-regarded experimental rock artists, and Reed would go on to a legendary solo career, becoming one of the most revered rock songwriters of his generation before his death in 2013.

The Velvet Underground and Nico now looked more like the future of rock music. With its embrace of dissonant sounds, unapologetically gritty subject matter and simplistic rhythms and songwriting, the album is a jumping-off point for virtually every form of “alternative” music that would take hold over the next 30 years. Glam, punk, noise rock, art rock, ’80s college rock—it all seemed to draw from something established on The Velvet Underground and Nico. There has never been a rock album more ahead of its time.

Tracks:
01. European Son
02. The Black Angel’s Death Song
03. All Tomorrow’s Parties
04. I’ll Be Your Mirror
05. Heroin
06. Femme Fatale
07. Venus In Furs
08. I’m Waiting For The Man
09. Run Run Run

 

John Cale has announced details of a major open-air gig in Liverpool next year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The show at Liverpool Docklands on 26th May is the only European date for Cale’s celebration of the Velvet Underground’s iconic debut LP, with the album to be played in full alongside a specially assembled band at a purpose-built stage facing towards the Atlantic Ocean. Widely regarded as one of the most influential albums in history, The Velvet Underground & Nico will only be played again in full at one further show in New York.

Announcing the gig, Cale said: “I’m often reluctant to spend too much time on things past – then, a time marker shows up – The Velvet Underground & Nico turns fifty! As so many bands can attest to, it is the fulfillment of the ultimate dream to record your first album.

“We were an unfriendly brand, dabbling in a world of challenging lyrics and weird sonics that didn’t fit into anyone’s playlist at the time. Remaining ferociously true to our viewpoints, Lou (Reed) and I never doubted for a moment we could create something to give a voice to things not regularly explored in rock music at the time. That bizarre combination of four distinctly disparate musicians and a reluctant beauty queen perfectly summed up what it meant to be The Velvet Underground.

John Cale

 

Lou Reed / The Sire Years: Complete Albums box / 10CD set

Lou Reed / The Sire Years: Complete Albums box / 10CD set, Rhino are to release a new Lou Reed CD box set that collects the eight albums released on the Sire label during a period that spanning almost a quarter of a century.

The Sire Years: Complete Albums box kicks off with 1989’s spectacular New York album, and the rather underrated follow-up Magic and Loss. Sandwiched in between is Songs For Drella, Reed’s collaboration with Velvet Underground mucker John Cale.

That trio is the rock solid foundation for a set which also includes the last two ‘proper’ studio outings (Set the Twilight Reeling and Ecstasy) but also takes in Perfect Night in London – Reed’s acoustic live album recorded during the Meltdown ’97 festival – and the two-disc version of The Raven. Another live album, Animal Serenade (also double disc) completes the box set.

The Sire Years: Complete Albums is packaged in a clamshell box and is good value at under £3 per disc. No remastering for this set – it uses the most recent masterings available and no bonus tracks.

If you are looking to explore Reed’s solo work of this era, but aren’t interested in live material (and can live without The Raven) then the five-CD Original Album Series set highlighted here might be a better option. And it’s about 50 percent cheaper in terms of per-disc price. The packaging will be inferior though.

The Sire Years: Complete Albums is released on 30th October 2015.

Velvet Underground Unreleased

The Velvet Underground releases “The Complete Matrix Tapes” collects recordings made at San Francisco club the Matrix on November 26th and 27th, 1969. As previously reported, the four-disc box set will be released November 20th via Polydor/Universal Music Enterprises.
Including a previously unreleased recording of “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”.

By September 1968, Lou Reed was hell-bent on kicking John Cale out of the Velvet Underground. Reed and Cale started the band, but after two albums, Lou was no longer interested in working with the Welsh musician.

It’s always been unclear as to why Lou Reed felt this way, but the most plausible reason is that he sought to make the Velvets more accessible, while John Cale wanted to keep one foot in the avant-garde. Regardless, in late September, after what would turn out to be Cale’s final concerts with the group, Reed met with drummer Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison and gave them an ultimatum: Either Cale goes or the band is finished. Reluctantly, Tucker and Morrison agreed to sack Cale. But with Cale’s exit and upcoming concerts scheduled for the first week of October, a replacement needed to be found—and fast. Doug Yule, a Boston musician who was friendly with the band, was quickly brought into the fold. Yule would have to swiftly learn a set of songs, many of which he hadn’t heard before because they hadn’t been released yet. He made his way to New York City to rehearse for shows booked at a small venue in Cleveland called La Cave. Yule’s first gig with the Velvets is usually cited as having taken place on October 2nd, though in his exhaustive book, White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day, author Richie Unterberger writes that Yule’s debut was October 4th. Either way, the band’s new member had little time to prepare.

John Cale and Lou Reed

The Velvet Underground played two sets that first night in Cleveland with Yule, and thanks to recordings which were subsequently bootlegged, we can hear what they sounded like during this historic show. Incredibly, Yule already appears to be a good fit. He’s obviously up for the task, coming up with interesting bass lines—even singing background harmonies—on songs that he had just learned. His harmony vocal gelling perfectly with Reed’s during a lovely version of “Jesus” is just one of many cool moments. Reed’s guitar work is also noteworthy, like during the wild and weird middle section of “I Can’t Stand It,” but it’s the track that opens the first set that takes the cake.

“What Goes On” was one of many numbers played that first night that Yule barely had time to acquaint himself with (the tune would be included on their next album, The Velvet Underground, which came out the following year). There’s nothing all that interesting happening here at first (though Yule once again contributes some mighty fine harmonizing); that is, until Reed kicks off the initial solo with a fierce blast of noise. He follows up with melodic lines that resemble what would be heard on the now-familiar album take, but while the guitar tone on the LP version is psychedelic, here it’s all about volume and distortion. During the second and final solo, after a similar melodic passage, Lou lets it rip. At around the 4:52 mark, he goes into hyperactive overdrive, whipping up an atypically riotous, face melter of a solo that’s downright giddy in execution. It’s the sound of a man set free.

This joyfully savage version of “What Goes On” would appear decades later on Peel Slowly and See, VU’s 1995 boxed set, and to date it’s the only track from the Cleveland concerts to be officially released. In his liner notes for the box, David Fricke is suitably inspired by the rendition, writing that it’s “rich with pyro-fuzzbox spew and climaxes with a staccato rush of tonal destruction over Sterling Morrison’s implacable, syncopated rhythm clang.”

The Velvet Underground

As first-rate as Doug Yule is during his debut outing with the Velvet Underground, it’s Lou Reed who makes the performances extraordinary. His solos during “What Goes On” sound like they’re coming from a man who is positively euphoric. No matter what his motives were behind getting rid of John Cale, it’s undeniable when listening to him play how he felt about the end result. “What goes on in your mind?” I think we all know the answer here.

Today marks One year since the incredible musician Lou Reed passed away, In tribute to the founding member of the Velvet Underground, John Cale has taken this song from 1982 and made a video as a fitting tribute, with thoughts to Andy, Nico and Sterling a fitting tribute from John Cale.