Friday, September 19, 2014

40 Year Itch : One Minute Born, One Minute Doomed

“Rock’n’roll people tend to live on the edge. That’s what this album is all about. Rock’n’roll has always been and still is one of the few honest things left in this world. That’s what this album is about … I hope parents will still get scared when they find their daughter listening to this music.” - Elliott Murphy in the liner notes to 1969 Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed 

   It may have been released by Mercury Records to cash in on Lou Reed's success, but damn the motivations! We got ourselves a live Velvet Underground album, recorded during a 70 date tour in support of "the quiet album". The album is a recording taken from two shows. The rougher sounding tracks were recorded by a fan at a Dallas show. The better sounding tracks were recorded in-house at The Matrix in San Francisco. You can't hear the audience in either case so there's no telling how many people attended these shows. Also, the album jumps back in forth between shows so you never get the sonic feeling you're attending one concert. 

gatefold with liner notes by Elliott Murphy

   But there are some amazing moments caught on tape. "What Goes On" runs nearly twice as long as the studio version, with Lou Reed battering his rhythm guitar until every muscle ached. That's followed by a lovely version of "Sweet Jane", the one the Cowboy Junkies covered. Not a surprise because , for a lot of fans, this was the only VU album they could find in stores. The other albums went out of print.

One more point about the Dallas show before I leave room for someone who was actually there. It begins with Lou Reed making small talk about the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game. The Cowboys won 49-14. "It was ridiculous. You should give our people just a little chance." he says before blasting into "I'm Waiting for My Man" ( as he introduced it)

I just never thought Lou watched football for some reason.

A member of the Rate Your Music community who goes by the name wrayb  says he was at the Dalla performance:

The crowd was small but respectably large on Thursday, big on Friday, the place was jammed on Saturday. Then surprisingly Sunday night I think there were only a handful there who were not directly connected to the staff of the club.

   The club was located in a small strip mall. The performance space seemed to be made of what once were two store fronts, still divided in half by the two by four wall studs. I remember the audience being only a few people who stayed over by the door and a small but noisy group of four to six people who chose to be in the back section, behind the "wall." I and one or two other die hard fans were in the front section. The floor was carpeted, no tables or chairs, with sofa cushions and large odd shaped pillows scattered about. I gathered some up into a little sofa bed of my own and lay back. One amazed 18 year old kid watching a virtually private performance. It seemed that that the older group (twenties as opposed to teens) in the back section were connected to the club. Perhaps the owner and his buddies, male and female.

    Lou's comments about the football game were meaningless to me but I guess he had had little to do that Sunday afternoon except watch tv at the hotel. When Lou commented on the next day being a school day and laid out the option I was puzzled: which would result in the most music? My voice finally joined the responses asking for one long one.

OK, that's my little story. The music is so imprinted on my DNA I have a hard time summarizing it or describing it. From that night I vividly remember small details such as the interplay between Lou and other members of the group. Lou's directing Moe on the pace of the beat. His seeming to be overly enamoured of Doug Yule's contribution to the performance. ( *during band introductions he calls Yule his brother).

    I think Yule and Morrison shared bass duties, changing at least once when Yule playing some slide guitar. Yule played organ when needed. There were times when it was three roaring guitars and Tucker's pounding on the drums.

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