THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF VELVET UNDERGROUND BOOTLEGS REDUX!
Yeah. You're wondering just where are all of those 1965 Falling Spikes and Warlocks rehearsals are rotting away as well as the '66 EPI shows with and without Reed, not forgetting all of those "Sister Ray"s parts two, three... that Lou said would take days to play if they were all strung together. Or how about that show where Doug Yule played a violin during that very selfsame "Sister Ray" that only Mike Kostek seems to remember and is still vainly trying to find a tape of??? Well, I'm wondering where all those shows are being stashed away as well, and until those tapes do eventually pop up (and they will, right around the time you all go deaf due to some ultramodernest new strain of syphilis bound to hit you upsides the head when it comes around in another ten or so years!) I guess we'll have to settle on just listening to all of them old Velvets boot LPs and disques we've been acquiring for years, or at least since the days when even the grittiest nth-generation Velvets tape was like aural manna fron You-Know-Where. At for a guy like me who admittedly does have a few gaps in the ol' Velvet Underground bootology these platters of both an analog and digital variety sure know how to "fill-the-bill" when it comes to satiating that intense hungerin' craving I had (still have!) for the Velvets ever since my mid-to-late teenage days when thankfully the sway of CREEM began to overcome my interest in things more...attuned to the hearts and mind of the other kids, and if I was gonna be an outcast I better do it on my own terms and with the Velvets beside me, savvy?
One of the nicer packages to hit the boot boards as of late is A SYMPHONY OF SOUND, a high-quality LP recording taken from the Warhol film of the same name where the Velvets and Nico create that wonderful din while Ari romps throughout the Factory and the cops come in and close the place down. You remember the film...you've wanted to see it for ages after reading some Warhol filmography and probably thought the sole existing reel was going to be locked up for good so why bother losing sleep over it! Well, thankfully the thing did survive and can be seen on DVD and heard on a number of earlier boots. But you never heard it as clear as you will on this pristine platter which, unlike the bootlegs of the old insert-sleeve seventies days doesn't sound like it was pressed up on old Buick floormats. In fact, I'm surprised at how clean this album looks and feels as well as sounds, certainly a lot better looking than those old-timey bootlegs and definitely an aural improvement over those audience-recording tapes that have been flying around which leads me to believe that whoever did this spared no expense mastering the platter straight from the film souce, or DVD for that matter. (The cover gives a Japanese origin and for once I believe it considering how high the quality is especially with that crisp photo outtake [taken from a DVD? Wherever it came from, it looks as good as classic sixties photo stock!] on the obverse not forgetting the fine line early-Warholesque drawing on the reverse which does have the same sparkling quality of many independant Japanese vinyl offerings available these days.) It's a bee-youtiful all 'round affair not only with the crisp sound (and hey, is there some additional music missing from all other bootlegs appearing at the beginning? Some of this does sound fresh to the ears of the one called me!) to the professional cover, and it even comes equipped with some inserts, one consisting of shots taken from the video (though of exemplary quality) as well as a reprint of Lou Reed's "A View From the Bandstand" taken from the Warhol ish of ASPEN which once again goes to show you that Lou was capable of some pretty smart writing which makes me kinda wish he also spent a good hunkering portion of his life as a rock scribe. Not necessarily rock "critic", but as an aloof, detached observer sort of like Jonathan Richman was during his late-sixties writing days for VIRBATIONS (where he was also art editor!) or better yet Wayne McGuire.
Jumping three years into '69, the four-CD BOSTON TEA PARTY set showcases the group at one of their favorite watering holes in one of the more receptive cities playing their hearts out to the same kinda people who would be, within the span of a few years, taking the Velvets drone and blare and making it Boston's own even more than Cleveland did. Mainly because whereas the Cle bands that grabbed the Velvets spirit by the fibula were more or less tossed off as easy-to-dismiss jokes at least Boston sure knew how to crank out the VU plasma and make the local populace notice! But anyway, this is also a great package that once again honors the Velvets, this time from the Japanese Scorpio label who did some good stuff in the past but this 'un from the great cover reproduction to the picture discs pretty much tops a lotta those scuzzy CD-Rs of now outta-print boots that unfortunately take up too much bootleg space in my Cee-Dee collection! Is it any wonder that both this and the SYMPHONY OF SOUND album came from the great Land of the Rising Feedback, because between these albums and some of the newer aficionados of the form Japan seems to be the last great frontier when it comes to carrying on the Velvet Underground mystique without turning it into yet more alternative geek quap like it has been ever since the feral seventies clocked into the tepid eighties (and never mind the nineties, or TODAY for that sad matter!).
And what's more, the sound on these disques is unbelievably clear especially for audience cassette recordings, much better'n those TDK C-90s you paid $9.99 for back in '80 which gave you these same shows sounding all the muddier and/or large hall vibrato-y for your troubles! I dunno how Scorpio got hold of first generation tapes, or perhaps mastering and techniques for cleaning up the sound has improved in the quarter-century since stereo fanatics got into equalizers and all that now-forgotten STEREO REVIEW hi-fi gimmickry. But whaddeva, these four platters are filled with some of the better examples of where the early Doug Yule-period Velvets could go, and if you're one of those people like me who miss John Cale and the viola, well it ain't like ya wanna kill Yule or anything like that because he fits in fine and could you imagine what they woulda sounded like if they got Jackson Browne in there???
And y'know what, it ain't like I hate the guy. Not that I ever did, but I gotta admit he looked cool enough to be a Velvet plus he fits in the band like a proverbial glove on these platters which, as Jonathan Richman said in his brilliant-like c/o THE VELVET UNDERGROUND article, still showed enough of the early/Cale-era in their DNA as Yule didn't yet have the chance to put his imprint on the group. But don't worry because even though the tension-inducing Cale was outta the VU a good four months when disc #1 (1/10/69) was recorded the avant garde was still firmly stamped into the Velvets' overall sound and on more than one occasion you can hear them entering into that fabled "cloud" that Reed mentioned in that mystical interview which appeared in the ALL YESTERDAY'S PARTIES collection a few years back!
But hey, no fretting's allowed because the best of the 1969 Boston gigs are all here, including that infamous guitar mix tape from the March 15th show and it's all overpowering high-energy Velvets at their best. Ultimately it goes to show you just how lame all these bands who claim to cling to the Velvets' chic mystique these days really are, and true that may sound like old-hat redundancy on my part (but should go to show you just how much ire I have for bands who take a good thing and bring it down to their putrid, narcissic level) but one thing's for sure, and that's this music ain't old-hat or redundant one bit and in fact sounds just as alive and as gnawing at the inner core of your being as it did some 37 years back! Y'know, back in the days when these sounds were first being laid down for the high-class and flotsam who flocked to the Boston Tea Party to see these shows which have been forever preserved on these neat li'l disques for us and hopefully for future generations to enjoy long after the rest falls into the abyss. But you knew that already, and I'm sure anybody with the BRAINS to tune into this blog already knows plenty about the healing force of the Velvet Underground and just how important their music remains after all those other puny little bands have passed into the ozone so why not just quit reading this and SCAM a copy for yourself!
***Before I go, I just wanted to share with you another strange bit of Velvet Underground myth-making that I have come across via the internet, mainly a poster for some imaginary Max's Kansas City show that appears on the left. Strange because this item is obviously a latterday creation of some slightly astute-yet-morally bankrupt person's twisted imagination (probably the same moax who created a B-52's live at Max's poster advertising a late-'77 gig using a pic of that band swiped from the front cover of their debut LP!) who for some odd reason actually thinks diehard Velvets fans will be fooled by a modern-looking poster advertising a December 196X gig that most of us would realize never took place! Now I'll 'fess up to the fact that I kinda chortle at the poster myself and feel like I too am part of the joke being pulled on novice Velvet Underground fans who, like all of us at one time in the past, probably don't know enough to see through the scam. And frankly, I feel pretty much honored that my obscure cult faves (or at least they would seem that way here in Western Pee-YAY!) are worthy enough to be used as fodder for this prankster's idea of creating a poster in an obviously 90's/00's fashion and passing it off as a sixties artyfact! But then again the saner side of me is slapping my psyche around silly only to make me wonder all the more...was this trip really necessary?????