Lou Reed Album With Demos of Velvet Underground Classics Getting Released: Hear an Early Version of “I’m Waiting for the Man”

In 1965, Lou Reed was a 23-year-old grad­u­ate stalled in a music and art career he wasn’t sure would take off. A few years ear­li­er a doo-wop sin­gle record­ed with high school friends had been released to no avail. More recent­ly, a par­o­dy of dance-craze sin­gles “Do the Ostrich”, cre­at­ed by Reed and per­formed by a pick-up band of musi­cians, had also made its way onto wax and then right out of people’s mem­o­ries. How­ev­er, John Cale was in that pick-up band, and soon the two were fast friends. It was Cale who helped record Reed’s demo tape of songs that year. And it was Reed who took the tape and mailed it back to him­self as a “poor man’s copy­right.”

That demo tape has now been unsealed and these nev­er-before heard record­ings are head­ing to LP and CD and stream­ing. Above you can hear a very ear­ly ver­sion of “I’m Wait­ing for the Man,” that would get rad­i­cal­ly reworked for the Vel­vet Underground’s debut album.

Over rudi­men­ta­ry gui­tar pluck­ing, Reed’s demo is slow­er, has har­monies, and a more decid­ed folk bent. Reed acts out the var­i­ous parts, includ­ing the “Par­don me sir, it’s the fur­thest from my mind” line in a faux-Brit accent. There’s even a Dylan-esque har­mon­i­ca solo.

The demo tape con­tains oth­er future Vel­vet Under­ground clas­sics like “Hero­in” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” but also songs that would turn up on Berlin (“Men of Good For­tune”) and a favorite cov­er “Wrap Your Trou­bles in Dreams” that would pop up in Vel­vets sets. But there’s also songs that were nev­er released in any for­mat: “Stock­pile,” “Buzz Buzz Buzz,” and “But­ter­cup Song.”

Reed had been influ­enced by poet Del­more Schwartz, who he’d stud­ied under at Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty. Schwartz had instilled in Reed the idea that the sim­plest words could have the max­i­mum effect in the right hands. Reed’s style of street doc­u­men­tary and rep­e­ti­tion came out of his rela­tion­ship with Schwartz, whom Reed paid trib­ute to on the first Vel­vets album with “Euro­pean Son.”

The album, all nice­ly remas­tered, will be avail­able in the usu­al for­mats on August 26, includ­ing a bonus ep of ear­li­er demos, includ­ing 1963 home record­ings and a 1958 rehearsal. For now enjoy this glimpse into the mind of an artist about to find his place in the world, and he doesn’t even know it yet.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Teenage Lou Reed Sings Doo-Wop Music (1958–1962)

Watch The Vel­vet Under­ground Per­form in Rare Col­or Footage: Scenes from a Viet­nam War Protest Con­cert (1969)

Watch Footage of the Vel­vet Under­ground Com­pos­ing “Sun­day Morn­ing,” the First Track on Their Sem­i­nal Debut Album The Vel­vet Under­ground & Nico (1966)

How Drum­mer Moe Tuck­er Defined the Sound of the Vel­vet Under­ground

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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