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Saturday 28 October 2023

Saturday Live

Standing in Probe Records in Liverpool on Wednesday afternoon, browsing the record sleeves, I had a bit of a moment. This may have been partly due to a sudden rush of emotions connected to it being Lou's birthday, Isaac being gone and being back in Liverpool, partly due to it being thirty five years since I first went to Liverpool as an eighteen year old starting at university there, and partly due to the in shop soundtrack, a live recording of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and the band making their singular, ramshackle and beautiful way through Beginning To See The Light (I'm assuming it was the post- John Cale, Doug Yule incarnation of the group). Everything piled up a little bit for me. I stayed there for a while, going through the racks and enjoying the Velvets in full flow c1969, another song came on (shamefully I can't remember which one now) and then the tremulous introduction to All Tomorrow's Parties kicked in and I had genuine shivers and went a bit teary. I pulled myself together and went outside. 

There is hardly any footage of The Velvet Underground playing live in the 1960s apart from this clip, the band playing outdoors at The Moratorium To End The War In Vietnam at White Rock Lake, Dallas, 15th October 1969. In the surviving clip the group play I'm Waiting For The Man and Beginning To See The Light but the audio is very patchy. In the clip below the uploader has taken the audio from the Matrix Tapes performance of Beginning To See The Light and overlaid it (the Matrix audio is from San Francisco in late November 1969, only a month later and therefore probably very close to how they sounded outdoors at White Rock Lake). 'Some people work very hard/ But still they never get it right/ Well I'm beginning to see the light' sings Lou and the guitars go for that VU all trebly and at the double sound, Mo thumps away with the backbeat and Doug plonks in the bass. In the clip people mill about, Sterling Morrison is pulled for an interview at one point and any members of the crowd that are there for the music stand around chatting, looking fairly unbothered that one of the greatest groups in the history of rock 'n' roll are playing on a balcony just yards in front of them.

There may be little film footage of the group but there are lots of recordings of The Velvet Underground playing live. The Reed/ Tucker/ Morrison/ Yule band played a double header The Matrix in San Francisco on the 26th and 27th November 1969. The versions of songs below are in some ways more relaxed that the recorded ones, the guitars are still beautifully trebly and a little wired but the feel is loose and smokey rather than amphetamines and feedback. Lou is in good form, joking with the audience about the songs. Before Rock 'n' Roll he asks them to 'imagine it with a hundred guitars'. No need- when you have Lou and Sterling, two is more than enough. 

I'm Waiting For The Man (Live at The Matrix, November 1969)

Lisa Says (Live at The Matrix, November 1969)

Rock 'n' Roll (Live at The Matrix, November 1969)

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