Music Reviews

The Velvet Underground

Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes


Recorded “live to cassette” by rabid Velvet Underground fan and budding guitarist (Richard Hell and Lou Reed, et al) Robert Quine, is just about what you would expect for a primitively recorded document of The Velvet Underground (Version 2, denoted by the absence of John Cale). It’s incredibly hard to listen to at moments, contains three versions of “Sister Ray” (all at least 28 minutes long) – which is a rather stupid song to start with, guitar freakout or not – and points up that The Velvets, like most touring bands in those days, suffered from the limited sound equipment of the time. The vocals range from shouts to mumbles, and we’re not talking one of rocks great vocalists in Lou Reed to begin with.

All this said, should you pick it up? Of course. Because it’s previously (except for one cut used on the Live 1969 album) unreleased music from one of the greatest rock bands in history. Of course it sounds like crap. Everything did then. Of course Lou Reed can’t sing, and Doug Yule doesn’t come near replacing John Cale – no viola, for one thing. VU were punks in the truest sense of the word. Nobody bought their music; they dressed like gravediggers, and hung out with drug freaks. One of the benefits to being so far out of the limelight is that you can do most anything you want, good or bad. “Sister Ray,” with its charming “sucking on my ding dong” lyric, is an example perhaps of the bad, but with cuts such as “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting For My Man,” or “White Light/White Heat,” they redefined rock and roll by dropping a large stone in a growing pond. When the waves hit shore, they were called The Ramones, Television, or The Dream Syndicate. Even by this period of the bands development (which resulted in the Loaded album and its “Rock And Roll” and “Sweet Jane”), they had a less strident sound, perhaps, but still one laced with fury and tension. Listening to these live recordings makes you wish you had been there, speeding your brains out, chain-smoking. Don’t think anyone is going to get too misty in 30 years over bootlegs from today’s music. Because they just don’t make ‘em like The Velvet Underground anymore.

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