Lewis Reed - Copyright Demo, May 1965
Something interesting popped up on Lou Reed’s Facebook page this week:
We thought it’d be cool to share a photograph of one of the more “mythical” artifacts of Lou and the VU.
Lou mentioned this in an interview a while back (Q Magazine in 1996, I think), that he’d recently unearthed a demo he had mailed to himself in 1965, the reason for which is known as “the poor man’s copyright.”
In classic Lou style, he had this to say about the discovery: “I’m not going to listen to it. I don’t want to hear these things any more.”
Well, here’s what it looks like. And no, we haven’t opened it.
So! What do you think is on it? Judging from the May postmark, my bet is that it’s this demo reel Lou recorded that month (with John Cale in tow) at Pickwick’s studios in Queens. Info via the VU Web page:
May 11, 1965
John Cale - Lou Reed - Jerry Vance or Jimmie Sims
Buzz Buzz Buzz (one complete take + a couple of attempts breaking down)
Why Don’t You Smile Now
Heroin (take 1)
Heroin (take 2)
Untitled Piano Piece 1
Untitled Piano Piece 1
Here’s what VU scholar Richie Unterberger has to say about the demo:
Never circulated even on bootleg, but heard by this author, these were done for Pickwick Records. Of by far the most note are the first two known recordings of “Heroin,” as two takes done right each other. Though with more of a Dylanesque talking folk-blues feel than the version the Velvet Underground would record for their first album about a year later (and with yet more of a folk-blues feel than the sparse July 1965 demo on the Peel Slowly and See box set), the lyrics are even at this early stage virtually identical, the arrangement even including the same accelerating tempos. Of lesser but certainly considerable interest, the tape also includes a Reed version of “Why Don’t You Smile Now,” a song he and John Cale were credited (along with other Pickwick staff songwriters) with writing that was covered on mid-1960s singles by the All Night Workers and the Downliners Sect. Also on the tape is a relatively trivial Reed tune titled “Buzz Buzz Buzz” that bears slight similarities to Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” and an untitled John Cale solo piano instrumental that sounds much like the piano part he plays on “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”
You can actually hear one of those “Heroin” takes — it was played at Lou’s memorial service last year. But I don’t think anything else has surfaced. And hey, I could be totally wrong and this box could contain something else entirely. Maybe the mythical “Never Get Emotionally Involved with a Man, Woman, Beast or Child”?
Let’s open the box!