Light in the Attic Records and Laurie Anderson announced a partnership on Monday (June 6) on the Lou Reed Archive Series that will feature a roll-out of rare and unreleased material from the late punk godfather’s legendary catalog.
The inaugural release, Words & Music, May 1965, features never-before-heard versions of such future Velvet Underground classics as “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” all presented in their earliest-known incarnations. The collection will drop on Aug. 26 in celebration of what would have been Reed’s 80th birthday; the singer/guitarist died in 2013 at age 71 of liver disease.
According to a release announcing Words & Music, it offers an “extraordinary, unvarnished and plainly poignant insight into one of America’s true poet-songwriters.” The album explores songs written by a then-unknown Reed and recorded by his VU bandmate and musical partner John Cale, which, the release notes, Reed mailed to himself as a “poor man’s copyright” and which remained sealed in their original envelope and unopened for nearly half a century.
Also included on 1965 are several previously unreleased compositions that the release promised give a glimpse of Reed’s creative process and early influences. Avant garde artist/performer and Reed widow Anderson produced the collection along with Don Fleming, Jason Stern, the late Hal Willner and Matt Sullivan, with liner notes from acclaimed journalist/author Griel Marcus.
The liner notes from Fleming and Stern reveal that the pair found a number of exciting tapes at Reed’s Sister Ray Enterprises office, including some of the rocker’s earliest work. Among the rarities are a 1958 rehearsal with his high school doo-wop group The Jades (aka The Shades), as well as a listen to Reed’s dip into folk music in 1963-64 while he was attending Syracuse University, including acoustic guitar/harmonica takes on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” as well as instrumental versions of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” and “Michael, Row the Beat Ashore” and his own “W, & X, Y, Z Blues.”
“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” ended up on the Velvet Underground’s landmark 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, where they were presented in the band’s signature dark, driving rock style. On 1965 the songs finds Reed on acoustic guitar and harmonica, with Cale singing harmonies in a style described as being akin to folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary. In addition, “Heroin” features alternate lyrics, including 3 lines that were later dropped in the studio, while “Pale Blue Eyes” — which surfaced on the VU’s third studio album, 1969’s The Velvet Underground — was completely re-written in its final version, with only one of the original verses remaining.
TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe will host a podcast exploring Words & Music, on a special program featuring exclusive audio, archival materials and interviews with a number of the album’s participants; the pod created in partnership with Little Everywhere and Ruinous Media, will be available on all platforms on Aug. 26.
A 6-song digital EP, Gee Whiz, 1958-1964, will drop on Oct. 7 and feature the folk covers and original blues recordings from 1963-64. Click here to see the variety of formats for the 1965 recording.
See the full digital tracklist for Words & Music, May 1965 below:
1) “I’m Waiting for the Man” (May 1965 demo)
2) “Men of Good Fortune” (May 1965 demo)
3) “Heroin” (May 1965 demo)
4) “Too Late” (May 1965 demo)
5) “Buttercup Song” (May 1965 demo)
6) “Walk Alone” (May 1965 demo)
7) “Buzz Buzz Buzz” (May 1965 demo)
8) “Pale Blue Eyes” (May 1965 demo)
9) “Stockpile” (May 1965 demo)
10) “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” (May 1965 demo)
11) “I’m Waiting for the Man” (May 1965 alternate version)