Billboard editor Joe Levy shines a light on "Sweet Jane," Reed's three-chord (four, actually) classic, and one of the best songs rock & roll has produced about itself
"So I thought I would explain to you how you make a career out of three chords," Lou Reed says at the start of the 2004 live album "Animal Serenade," as he fools around with the opening of "Sweet Jane." He then goes on to show the Los Angeles crowd that there's a fourth chord tucked into the end of the progression. "As with most things in life," he jokes of the hidden chord, "it's that little hop at the end."
Recorded in 1970 at Atlantic Studios at Broadway and 60th Street in New York City, "Sweet Jane" appeared on "Loaded," the Velvet Underground's fourth album, and first for Atlantic Records. In the previous three years, the Velvet Underground had put out three albums of earth shaking noise and delicate chanson to an indifferent public. By the time of "Loaded," the band was falling apart, and Reed would quit three months before the album's release in November of 1970. (To Reed's eternal annoyance, Atlantic cut out the song's bridge in post-production.)