Velvet Underground – IV

As I posted a compilation of The Velvet Underground earlier this month, I thought I would continue by looking at the lost forth album the band had been recording in 1969. This seems to be a staple of many of the what-if album websites but the beauty of these things is just that. It is a what-if album. It was never released and so anyone can take the songs and speculate as much as they like about the running order would be, cover imagery etc. The story of this album has also been told many times but here is a summery. 

By the time the band had come to record their third album founding member John Cale had been fired, they had moved to MGM from Verve (an MGM subsidiary) and the sound had changed. This was down to the removal of Cale, who seemed intent to drive the band towards a more drone, noise infused future. Reed on the other hand, seemed to want to achieve some sort of commercial success with the band and having Cale in the band would have stopped this from happening. The fact that the band did not achieve much success during their life time is neither here nor there. They have definitely sold a lot more units since. Multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule was brought in as Cale’s replacement and he was there in time to record the third album. This album had few of the rough edges that had been present when Cale was in the band, and the subject matter of the songs had become more intimate. With the album recorded by the end of 1968, the band hit the road opening a good deal of 1969 playing live. 

In between live dates, the band was also in the studio laying down fourteen songs that the band members do not seem to have been in agreement as to what the purpose of recording them was. Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker both said that these songs would have been the basis of the next album. Doug Yule says that these songs were professional demos and Sterling Morrison says that this was just a way of looking busy whilst they were looking to get out of their contract. Whatever the reason, these songs have been released numerous times down the years but it is the versions that were included on the 2014 Super Deluxe Edition of the ‘Velvet Underground’ album that will will form the basis of this release. 

Out of the fourteen songs that were released as part of the compilation, two did did not make the cut. That was Rock & Roll as this came out as part of the ‘Loaded’ album and I did not want an overlap of songs. The other is I’m Sticking With You’ which sounds a though it should have been added to an album that was directed towards children or a B-Side. Out of the remaining songs, Andy’s Chest was relegated to a B-Side of whatever song was released from this album as an A-Side. Most probably an edited version of Foggy Notion, even though it no doubt would have been banned due to its lyrical content. That means there is a gap to be filled in with the running time as labels like to release albums with similar playing times on each side. Therefore I had a look at other unreleased material and there was a demo recording of Countess From Hong Kong, Though it was a co-write between Reed and Cale, the demo dates from the second half of 1969 so would fit into the time frame of this record. This takes the album up to about 23 minutes per side, which is long for an album of the time but not unheard of. 

So why didn’t the album come out? If, as Morrison says, the band were just killing time, then there was no intention of releasing it at all. However, if we go with Tucker and Reed’s version of events, then it could have been down to the fact that in 1969, MGM were in financial trouble. One of the ways of reducing this would have been to strip their artists roster of any band that were proving to be unprofitable. The Velvet Underground would have fit this category and so they were out. What MGM did not allow the band to do was to take the master tapes with them. By the time The Velvet Underground had signed with Cotillion Records, they had moved on and only a few of the songs were taken forward to what would be the ‘Loaded’ album. What this ‘lost’ album does is nicely bridge the gap between the recording of the ‘Velvet Underground’ and ‘Loaded’ albums showing the progression the band was making. As it was, these songs lay in the MGM vaults until the mid 80s when they were released along with some other outtakes from the Cale era. 

Would this album have turned The Velvet Underground into a commercial group? Doubtful but Lou Reed did not abandon the songs completely as many of them would appear on his solo records throughout the 1970s’. The front cover of this collection was adapted from a gig poster that band played at the Paramount Theatre in Springfield. Unfortunately, I don’t know the date of the gig as the poster didn’t say.

Side A

  • Foggy Notion
  • One Of These Days
  • Countess Of Hong Kong
  • Ride Into The Sun
  • Ocean

Side B

  • I Can’t Stand it
  • Coney Island Steeplechase
  • I’m Gonna Move Right In
  • Lisa Says
  • Ferryboat Bill
  • She’s My Best Friend
  • We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time 

Single B-Side

  • Andy’s Chest

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The Velvet Underground – The Collection

There was a time when I just didn’t understand the fascination people had with The Velvet Underground. I had heard ‘a best of’ album when I was at school and I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was down to the fact that I was spending my time listening to Hendrix, Cream, Traffic, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and little else. The guitarists in those bands were some of the best that have ever lived. The guitar playing in VU was not up to their high standard. Too much noise, not enough clean notes, that sort of thing. However, three things happened to change that. First up, I heard Candy Says on a documentary about Andy Warhol and I thought that was a good song. Then, a friend at University played me Sunday Morning, the opening song on the debut album and I also thought that was good too. However, it was when I was working in a shop after leaving University that I heard the Loaded album. I really enjoyed this and could not believe it was The Velvet Underground. This was around the time when that album was released in a Deluxe Edition called The Fully Loaded edition which I snapped up and played quite a lot at the time. 

This was it, until a few years later when I saw the Peel Slowly and See box set at a reduced price, so I took a punt. I was quite surprised by the first disc, which contained demos of some of the songs I had found impenetrable back in my school days. It was as though the early line up of VU were a folk band.  There were multiple takes of the same songs, but with a bit of editing, I am sure these would make a good EP release for Record Store Day or equivalent (see below). I then worked my way through the entire box and I found that I enjoyed a number of the songs that in the past I would not have listened to. These include Heroin, Venus in Furs and Run, Run, Run. It was with this box set that I made my first attempt at a career overview, limiting myself to what was in the box and the Fully Loaded edition of Loaded. Like many others, songs from the Squeeze album were not considered for inclusion. It was not until the internet became a part of my life that I even knew that the band continued on for a few years after Lou Reed left. 

The band can be split into two distinctive eras, the first with John Cale and the second with Doug Yule. The Cale era is definitely the more experimental, and it was due to Cale’s desire to go even further with the experimentation that led to his firing. Reed, being the principal songwriter, wanted the band to become more than just an underground act, so adopting a more commercial sound was necessary. Cale didn’t fit in with these plans, so he was out.  CD1 covers the more experimental side, whereas CD2 covers the more commercial sounding material. The band did not achieve commercial success during their lifetime, but due to some notable fans (such as David Bowie), they have been an influence on those who came afterwards and the records have sold steadily ever since. It just goes to show how popular the band has become as not every band gets to have the majority of their albums re-released in multi disc box sets. 

With the release of the 45th Anniversary editions of the four key albums (once again, Squeeze was not part of the reissue campaign), I decided to look again and see if the different versions of the songs including mono mixes, demos and alternative takes/mixes would improve the compilation. What you hear are the results with the different versions listed next to the title. What does surprise me is that all of the versions of these songs are available on Spotify, so both discs can be heard through that platform. The cover artwork was one I found online many moons ago so I cannot acknowledge who made it. 

Disc 1

  1. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Mono)
  2. I’m Waiting For The Man (Mono)
  3. Run Run Run (Sceptre Sessions Acetate)
  4. Stephanie Says
  5. There She Goes Again (Mono)
  6. Femme Fetale (Mono Single Mix)
  7. I’ll Be Your Mirror (Mono)
  8. The Fairest Of The Seasons*
  9. These Days*
  10. Winter Song*
  11. Chelsea Girls*
  12. Heroine (Alt. Version)
  13. Venus In Furs (Mono)
  14. Here She Comes Now
  15. Guess I’m Falling In Love (Live)
  16. Sister Ray

* These songs are from Nico’s album, Chelsea Girl. When this was compiled, the sleeve notes from the 45th Anniversary Edition of The Velvet Underground & Nico album were used. Those notes suggested that the Velvet Underground played on every song of that album. This does not appear to be the case but I liked this mix of songs so I am going to keep it as it was. 

Disc 2

  1. Who Loves The Sun
  2. Sweet Jane (Full Length Version)
  3. Rock & Roll (Full Length Version)
  4. Cool It Down
  5. Lonesome Cowboy Bill
  6. Head Held High (Alt. Mix)
  7. Foggy Notion
  8. Jesus (Closet Mix)
  9. New Age (Full Length Mix)
  10. What Goes On (Closet Mix)
  11. I Can’t Stand It
  12. Beginning To See The Light (Closet Mix)
  13. Pale Blue Eyes (Closet Mix)
  14. Candy Says (Closet Mix)
  15. I’m Set Free
  16. Ride Into The Sun(Demo)
  17. Ocean
  18. Oh! Sweet Nuthin’

Bonus EP

As mentioned above, I said that the demo’s the band recorded before the release of their first album would make a good EP, so I thought I would put it together. I listened to all of the songs and picked what I considered to be the best take. The song Prominent Men only has one take so that limited the choice with that one. It also sounds nothing like anything else that the Velvet Underground ever did, being as it sounds as though it is Lou Reed trying to be Bob Dylan, harmonica and all. These acoustic versions are not the best sonically, being as they were outside of the studio environment, but there is a certain charm about them and show what the band could have been if they had decided to be a folk trio instead of the band that they became once drummer Mo Tucker came on board. 

Annoyingly (even though we should be thankful these exist at all), on each take of Venus in Furs there is some sort of background noise. Be it a car going past outside the loft apartment in which they recorded them, or the squeaking of what can only be assumed to be a chair of some sort. Luckily, this is the only song affected in this way. As these songs were demos recorded in a loft, the arrangements are different from what they would become on the debut album. The arrangement for Heroin is already in place, building the tension and releasing again. All Tomorrow’s Parties sounds like Reed is once more channelling his inner Dylan where as I’m Waiting For The Man is reminiscent of a pre World War 2 blues record, with slide guitar accompaniment (and a spoken version of the lyrics, courtesy of John Cale by the sounds of it). 

The artwork for this EP uses a logo found on line over the picture of the tape box that was used as the cover to the CD box in the version of the Peel Slowly and See compilation I bought all those years ago. I assume that it was the same box that contained the tape on which the songs were recorded. The songs are all on Spotify but have not been edited down into the individual takes. I have supplied the take and the time it starts.

  1. Venus In Furs (Demo) Take 3 – 10:24-15:36
  2. Prominent Men (Demo) Take 1
  3. Heroin (Demo) Take 5 – 8:33-13:31
  4. I’m Waiting For The Man (Demo) – 5:20-9:49
  5. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (Demo) Take 12 – 9:50-15:30 
  6. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Demo) Take 6 – 9:48-12:13

Even though these are demos, this EP would clock in at an impressive 27 minutes and 52 seconds. If this were to be released on vinyl, a 12 inch record would be needed. 

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Derek & The Dominos – The Live Collection

Back in March, I posted a what-if about Derek & The Dominos’ Layla album had been a double disc expanded edition with the best of the off cuts from the first and second album sessions, with a couple of bonus’ thrown in for good measure. Derek & The Dominos only released the one album during their short life time, but a second album did come out early 1973. This was not the fabled second studio album though, even though the tapes from the 1971 sessions had  occasionally been dusted down and listened to up until 1974, when Clapton released his sophomore solo album. This was the live album ‘In Concert’. After completing the Layla seasons, the band went on a tour of the USA with support coming from Toe Fat and a relative unknown by the name of Elton John. Bobby Whitlock, the band’s keyboardist, has said that like the album sessions that preceded it, there were a good number of drugs being consumed during the tour. Elton John noted though that this did not affect their performance whilst on stage, where he would watch from the sidelines to see what they were doing, especially Whitlock. 

The band played a number of shows on the 23rd and 24th October at the Fillmore East in New York City. All of these shows were recorded (supposedly without the band’s knowledge) and as it would turn out, these are the only record of the band live that is not an audience recording/bootleg. After playing the Layla album to death, I was surprised to find that there was a live album. In the pre-internet age, it was not easy to find out about artists discographies. You had to hope that your local record shop had it in stock. This album also received heavy rotation on my CD player even though I would eventually replace it, along with the Layla CD with original pressings of the vinyl. These early CDs were notorious for that lack of care and attention that record companies had taken with their back catalogues, and would release a version from whatever master tapes they had lying around. I remember the amount of hiss on some of the Cream CDs from the time had the same problem, especially when it came to Fresh Cream (nice clean sound) and Disraeli Gears (sounded like it had been recorded with Dolby on and then transferred via five tape machines to attain maximum hiss. If you listened carefully, you could hear some music in there somewhere).

What surprised me about ‘In Concert’ was the lack of Layla. Was it down to the fact that Duane Allman, so instrumental in the sessions for the parent album only joined them for a couple of shows on the tour and this was not one of them. Without that second guitar player, would the song have worked in a live setting? What was a surprise was hearing songs that were not on Layla. These included Got To Get Better In A Little While (destined to be recorded during the second album sessions) and Roll It Over (the B-side of the band’s withdrawn first single). Having only released one album, the band were reliant on playing songs from Clapton’s back catalogue including songs that he had played during his days with The Powerhouse, Cream, Blind Faith and his first solo album. 

Due to the constraints of the vinyl LP, there were a number of songs that were recorded but not released. Some of these would appear later on 1988’s Crossroads boxset and 1994’s ‘Live at the Fillmore’. Having liked the ‘In Concert’ album so much, I thought it was time to put together an extended live album for the band using all of these sources. This did leave me a little short on the second CD but with the release of the 40th Anniversary boxset, there was a live bonus in the complete set of songs that the band had played on The Johnny Cash Show; the only television performance the band made. All four songs recorded for the show (even though only two were broadcast) have been included at the end as bonus tracks. 

Disc 1

  • Why Does Love Got To Be So Bad?
  • Got To Get Better In A Little While
  • Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out
  • Roll It Over
  • Key To The Highway
  • Tell The Truth
  • Blues Power
  • Have You Ever Loved A Woman

Disc 2

  • Bottle Of Red Wine
  • Little Wing
  • Crossroads
  • Presence Of The Lord
  • Let It Rain

Bonus Tracks

  • It’s Too Late (Johnny Cash Show)
  • Got To Get Better In A Little While (Johnny Cash Show)
  • Matchbox (Johnny Cash Show)
  • Blues Power (Johnny Cash Show)

The front cover is similar in design to the Layla Expanded Edition from March, but instead of a black background, I went for red. The photos are taken from the Live at the Fillmore front cover, with an added picture of Clapton playing to cover over the credits on the original release. 

A Spotify playlist could not be produced due to one or more songs not being availbe on that platform.

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Episode 92 – It’s All Relative

If one member of your family has found success in the music business, why not have a go yourself. Here we take a look at some of the people who have had a famous relative and have had go at making records of their own. 

  • The Next Time You Feel Important – Freddie Lennon (Father of John Lennon)
  • Leaves – Murry Wilson (Father of The Beach Boys Wilson Brothers)
  • Deep Water (Mono Single Mix) – Grapefruit (Alexander Young, brother of Angus & Malcom from AC/DC) 
  • Some Velvet Morning – Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood (Daughter of Frank Sinatra)
  • Reality – Carolyn Franklin (Sister of Aretha Franklin)
  • Woman – Mike McGear (Brother of Paul McCartney)
  • The Ballad of Bruce Lee – Robert Lee (Brother of Bruce Lee)
  • When I’m A Man – Simon Townshend (Brother of Pete Townshend)
  • If You Ever Believed – Lucy Simon (Sister of Carly Simon)
  • Hey, St. Peter – Flash & The Pan (George Young, brother of Angus & Malcolm from AC/DC)
  • Obscene Phone Caller – Rockwell (Son of Motown Founder Berry Gordy)
  • Dark Sunglasses – Edwina Laurie (Sister of Lulu) 
  • Love Sign – Prince & Nona Gaye (Daughter of Marvin Gaye)
  • Lights Out – Lisa Marie Presley (Daughter of Elvis Presley)
  • Something Good This Way Comes – Jakob Dylan (Son of Bob Dylan)
  • Just Noise – Norah Jones (Daughter of Ravi Shankar)
  • The Duellist – Air feat. Charlotte Gainsbourg & Jarvis Cocker (Daughter of Serge Gainbourg)

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