Friday, July 29, 2011

Velvet Underground 6: 1969 Live

In response to Lou’s growing fame as a glam solo act, their original label decided to cash in on whatever they had left, compiling a two-record set from location tapes recorded at shows in Dallas and San Francisco. Taking care to highlight Lou’s name on the (hideous) cover art, at least the album generally known as 1969 could boast Maureen Tucker on drums, unlike the bootleg-quality live album from a couple years before.
What made 1969 more interesting, and essential to fans, was the inclusion of several unreleased songs exclusive to the set. “Lisa Says” and “Ocean” had been heard by a select few on Lou’s first solo album, but here were full-fledged band versions, the former with a jaunty bridge and the latter stretched to ten fascinating minutes. “Over You” and the odd “Sweet Bonnie Brown/It’s Just Too Much” medley are curious on their own, but “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together” crackles with energy. Many of the tracks are extended to jam length, and the key discovery to latecomers came in “New Age” and “Sweet Jane”, both in their original versions before being re-jigged for Loaded. (It was this version of “Sweet Jane” that the Cowboy Junkies covered in 1989, leading to their own success and an endorsement by a genuinely flattered Uncle Lou.)
The 1969 album was eventually reissued on CD, but separated into two budget-priced volumes, with an extra track on each. A proper rehaul is long overdue, but there have been two sequels of sorts. Come the turn of the century, when the archival boom helped boost sales in a dying industry, the Velvet Underground became the latest act to find themselves with an authorized “Bootleg Series”. The inaugural — and to date, only — volume in the series was culled from various safeties of cassettes recorded by guitarist (and eventual Reed sidekick) Robert Quine with his own personal tape recorder at a dozen shows from the same era as 1969. The Quine Tapes offers three discs chock full of the Velvets playing their little hearts out, complete with Maureen singing both “After Hours” and “I’m Sticking With You”, and three renditions of “Sister Ray” ranging from 24 to 38 minutes. One key rarity is “Follow The Leader”, otherwise known only from a mid-‘70s Lou solo album.
When the third album received its 45th anniversary treatment, the deluxe package included two discs of material from the San Francisco shows mined for 1969. A year later, The Complete Matrix Tapes presented all four sets sourced from the original tapes, for the best-yet sound of these odd but enjoyable recordings. Everything was familiar to fans by now, and songs are repeated, and but none of them sound identical. Well, maybe “There She Goes Again”, but that’s allowed.

The Velvet Underground 1969: The Velvet Underground Live With Lou Reed (1974)—4
1988 CD: same as 1974, plus 2 extra tracks
The Velvet Underground Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (2001)—3
The Velvet Underground
The Complete Matrix Tapes (2015)—


  1. It's too bad Universal didn't strike a deal with the owner of the Matrix Club to give a proper release to the V.U. material he has. Some of it is featured on 1969, but in much better fidelity than on the released album. He had a website up with some preview clips at one point, and the stuff sounded great.

    1. Only took them four years to make your dreams come true, and another five for me to acknowledge both!