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Bootleg Country: Lou Reed – 12/16/72

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Picture this: The year is 1998. It is Thanksgiving weekend. My mother and her friend have picked me and my friend up from college to bring us to the Thanksgiving feast. We’re in the mom-mobile (similar to the Pope-mobile, but less stylish) riding on I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama. I pop in Lou Reed’s Transformer album and “Walk on the Wild Side” begins to play.

Just as Lou sings “never lost her head, even when she was giving head” mom freaks.

“Did he just say what I think he said?”

Me mumbling something, quickly ejecting the tape wondering how I forgot the depravity on this tape.

“Mathew, I can’t believe you’d listen to something like this. That’s disgusting.”

I apologized over and over as I tried to find something clean and pleasant, like Hootie and the Blowfish.

To this day my mom won’t let me forget that moment, or the time she read the lyrics on the cover of Jane’s Addictions self titled album.

I still listen to both albums. I still find meaning in artistic expression that doesn’t necessarily fit into my own neat little morality.

Lou Reed always had a way of singing about the darker personalities; pimps, transvestites, drug pushers and anyone else who lives on the outskirts of normal society. And he did it with great art, influencing countless musicians behind him.

12/16/72
Ultrasonic Recording Studio
Hempstead, NY

This is what rock is supposed to be. Two guitars, bass and drums. No frills, all rock.

The show kicks off with a thumping “White Light/White Heat” that makes me want to grab my leather jacket, shave my head, and kick somebody’s ass.

After that they play “something off the new album” which turns out to be “Vicious.” It’s played to perfection and is something even mom could enjoy.

On “Heroin” Lou remarks on the irony of the song being banned in the early days (so much so that they couldn’t even advertise the album) and now they’re going to play it on the radio. We get the “rock version” of the song which means a lot more guitar and less distorted violin which makes for something a little more listenable, but it loses the sharp edge the songs takes in the studio version.

“Heroin” is probably the first Velvet Underground song I ever heard. They had it on the soundtrack to the movie about the Doors – an album me and my friend Candy listened to so many times we had every note memorized. We used to play a game during “Heroin” and “The End” to see who could get each line, each note exactly perfect. I loved that song. Still do.

Later we come to a first in my “Bootleg Country” series. Lou sings “Satellite of Love” just as he did with Bono on the U2 bootleg. I’ve now got bootleg carry over. This is something I suspect will happen a lot before the series is finished. Unfortunately I don’t particularly like the song, and find myself skipping it on both versions.

“Satellite’s” bass line morphs into “Walk on the Wild Side” with an uproar of cheers from the crowd and a little smirk on my face. Sorry mom, I still dig the crap out of that song.

Some versions of this tape are listed as having an interview with Lou in the middle of the show. As it was taped for a radio program that seems logical, but my copy doesn’t have the interview so we’ll continue with the music.

Actually, the source material lists the radio station as the venue, that and considering the under an hour performing time I suspect this show was actually performed in an auditorium in the radio station itself.

It is a short set, but a good one. There are only a couple of songs I don’t really care for, the aforementioned “Satellite of Love” and “Berlin.” Maybe that’s because I’m not really familiar with either song, or that they are both slow songs during an otherwise rocking set. The rest of the songs are straight ahead rock n roll and pretty much take me to the places I’d like to go with Lou Reed.

About Mat Brewster

  • Vern Halen

    I was never much of a solo Lou fan – Velvets rule, however – even their versions of songs that weren’t released ’til after Lou solo’ed them.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    I’m with you on that train. I never really got into Lou Reed solo stuff. But for a good while I loved the crap out of the Velvets.

  • Scott Butki

    That said, the New York album is amazing.

  • Vern Halen

    Yeah, New York was one of his better efforts, but I’d still be much happier to see an offical release of the Velvet’s Live at La Cave Cleveland Oct ’68 – Doug Yule’s first gig I think. I’ve heard a few cuts on boot compilations, and what I’ve heard is amazing – some of the best VU ever. Anyone know anything about it?

  • Scott Butki

    Nope. Haven’t heard about that one.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com/ Mat Brewster

    Little late here, but I haven’t heard about that either Vern. Hate to admit it, but I haven’t heard the New York album either. I’ll have to add it to my list of albums to buy. Dang, that list is long.

  • http://gohah.blogspot.com Gordon Hauptfleisch

    Upon its release, “New York” garnered great reviews, and I think made several end-of-year best-of lists, acclaim as Reed’s best work, etc.

    Just to throw into the mix: “Coney Island Baby” is also up there with the best. Earlier this year, the title song made my list of “My Top 11 Best Closing Song Lines In Rock” at #4:

    4. I’d like to send this one out for Lou and Rachel/ And all the kids at P.S. 192/ Coney Island baby/ Man, I’d swear, I’d give the whole thing up for you.
    (“Coney Island Baby” by Lou Reed)
    Plain spoken but still aching and yearning in the blind faith that maybe the “glory of love might see you through.”

  • Scott Butki

    New York has some of the best political lyrics I’ve heard Reed ever do.
    And if you’re buying albums, his song with John Cale about death and Andy Warhol is definitely worth a listen.

    As great as VU are he’s done some excellent solo work too.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    also has great, crunchy rhythm guitar.

  • Scott Butki

    If you haven’t listened to George Bush mashed up
    doing walk on the wild side you need to.
    I link to it "> from here.

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Thanks for the suggestions and comments. The Bush thing sounds great, I’ll check it out after work.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Duke De Mondo

    Sir Brewster, another excellent instalment. My Lou Reed listening only stretches to the first Velvet Underground record and Metal Machine Music. i keep meanin to pick up Berlin but, well, y’know how it is. regardless, wonderful stuff here, and i laughed myself asunder at the thought of your mother telling you off for listening to the like. i remember a similar situation when i played My Name Is Prince in the car one fine eve. “He’s gonna do WHAT to that daughter?”

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Thanks Duke. Verdict is still out on what dear old mom will say when she reads this column.

  • Vern Halen

    I found a copy of Lou doing Cycle Annie under the pseudonym “The Beachnuts.” You certainly can’t miss that voice & that rhythm guitar, even though I think he disavows having anything to do with it.

  • Scott Butki

    Why would he do that?

  • Vern Halen

    Apparently Lou worked for a songwriting factory that made “rip off” soundalike records in the 60′s. A bunch of songwriters would be thrown into a room and would be given instructons like – “10 Beatles-style songs by 5 oclock!” or “another album of surf music!” Sometimes they even got to play on them. Although he reportedly played on a few of these cuts, “Cycle Annie” is the one that is quite obviously Lou.

    I guess I’d also be reluctant to talk about that part of my life if I was in Lou’s shoes.