The Velvet Underground-LIVE AT THE GYMNASIUM LP (Velvet bootleg, Ireland)
When I first read that the legitimate flow of Velvet Underground "official" bootlegs was (perhaps) forever lost after the surviving Velvets sued to have their contracts re-examined, I feared that it was going to be a long and painful haul in between new-to-mine-ears VU wonders wasting away in whatever Welsh mineshaft John Cale deemed to dump all those reels down. Well, I have been wrong before, but this time I'm glad I was for as of late there has been a bit of Velvets fluttering on the bootleg market which has at least satiated my craving for these ultra-obscure rarities, and frankly I thought a good portion of those rehearsals, studio recordings and live treats never would have made it to our lobes no matter how hard us unreconstructed/unrepentant Velvet Underground fans stamped our feet and turned blue. I mean, those tactics may work for womyn 'n self-conscious hippoids, but as far as REAL PEOPLE like us...
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the live at the Gymnasium tape from '67, the Velvets' last stand in En Why See until the Max's gigs in '70, was available online at the mere click of a mouse. And imagine my BIGGER surprise when, for the life of me, I could not download said bugger onto disque to listen to in the privacy of my own prison cell! Well, no need to worry if you don't have your own computer nor the knowhow to make your own shiny pancake of the thing, for some enterprising bootleggers from Ireland of all places (who pressed this 100-copy run on green vinyl just to prove so!) have made these recordings available to the analog generation and given the neat cover (with an outtake from the Vox ad sesh) and sound you woulda thought they'd've been Japanese, eh?
Cale fans will rejoice in the discovery of another recording with their hero on board. Of course that feeling of elation will turn to abject dismay when they find out that he certainly has taken a backseat to Reed's showoffy self (plus his organ playing on the debut performance of "Sister Ray" seems to be reduced to a bizarre electronic hum akin to an Ondes Martenot), but all-encompassing Velvets fans like myself will find this recording yet another on-target on-schedule live gig. It reminds me not of the original satanic Velvets but the ones of the 1969/70 season (live and otherwise) who would be cranking out those fantastic extended romps with atonal guitar solos that eventually ended up on some of the brighter boot spots in Velvet history such as the indispensable HILLTOP ROCK FESTIVAL disque, which this GYMNASIUM show ultimately reminds me of!
"I'm Not a Young Man Anymore" does sound more like the hard-riffing Velvets of '69 as opposed to the more "avant garde" (or so we thought) earlier band, and even though it eventually got jettisoned for good within a short time I have the feeling that Reed might've resurrected it for a ne'er to be future Velvets platter just like he did with "Cool It Down" on LOADED.
"Fever In My Pocket"/"Guess I'm Falling In Love" is yet another take that doesn't appear either on the PEEL SLOWLY AND SEE box set nor the '82 John Cale radio show. It's somewhere in-between the two, not as crunchy as the Cale version nor is it as tossaway as the box set take. Still it's a boss song and I love the way Mirrors "deconstructed" it a good seven years later. Almost as good as the way Mirrors did the same to "Sweet Sister Ray".
"Waiting For My Man" again sounds more '69/'70 than '66/'67...ditto "Run Run Run" which riff-wise is almost a carbon-copy take on the '69 Hilltop version. It's interesting to hear that the group "evolved" these songs in such a fast time considering how they sounded on the November '66 Columbus shows that are available on more bootlegs than I'd care to dish megabucks out for. I'll bet that once this one gets out it's going to stymie all of those Yule-period haters (that Peter Laughner himself hated!) who thought the Velvets took a nosedive once Cale was unceremoniously kicked outta the camp!
And then there's "Sister Ray"...and y'know, I dunno if this really is the numbuh's premiere performance as is stated on the sleeve considering that the tune actually came outta a Poor Richard's (June '66 sans Reed) track called "Searchin'", but until that comes to the surface I guess we'll never know. Slightly slower than the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT version and perhaps all the more sinister for it, "Sister Ray" almost sounds like one of the various arrangements that the Velvets would take this song into well up until the end at which point it would be bent, sped-up, slowed-down and inverted beyond belief. However it's pretty funny hearing Lou not only speak-sing the lyrics in smacked-out cyborgness but add a "Sock it to me" after each stanza! I know that LAUGH IN was a big hit at the time, but I never thought that the ultra-cool Lou Reed woulda been watching it!
Seems as if 2008's already shaping up to the a pretty good bootleg year (keep turned for a future post featuring a massive boot review of wares pilfered from the vaults of a notoriously fleshy colored English progressive rock band...as soon as I can make my way through all of the rarities I scored a good month back!), and I'm talking about on the vinyl front as well. Sheesh, who would've thunk that there'd still be honest-to-goodniz long-playing records available at this late a date, but frankly I'm sure glad there are! And I'm sure glad that I instead of YOU scored this much-desirable beauty because I'm such an egomaniacal devotee of this bunch who livesbreathesfarts Velvets, but fear not for if you really do wanna hear what my green vinyl doozy doth entail just click here and you can listen to this year-end contender in its entirety for free!
***Just a small note before we part: got an email from none other than Don Waller of BACK DOOR MAN fame who writes that he just came across an old videotape of his old tactical assault rock & roll band THE IMPERIAL DOGS performing live '74 at California State University Long Beach! The Dogs were being video'd as part of a planned documentary on "decadence" and Don says it's a pisser of a performance in front of their biggest audience ever (over 200!) and shows the Dogs "playing their balls off" as Don so succinctly put it, not only on songs off their legendary Dog Meat album but on a few unreleased gems as well. Now what Don (and I, come to think of it) would like to know is...are there enough raving proletariats out there interested in seeing this thirtysome-year-old vid enough to warrant a DVD release and, are there any enterprising entrepreneurs out there willing to release the blasted thang??? If you can give an answer to either of these questions please let us know via the comments box. Your input would be greatly appreciated.