Thursday, March 17, 2016
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground - Etc. (1979)
This bootleg record was legendary in its day because it was among the first albums to contain unreleased Velvet Underground material. Unfortunately, it's a lot less exciting all these years later, because most of the songs it contains have since been released on CDs and box sets.
But when I was in high school and this record was still new-ish, there were no CDs. Heck, there weren't even any Velvet Underground records in print, except maybe Loaded. To be a fan of this stuff, you had to put in some real effort, like drive to far-off indie record stores and pay top dollar for albums of questionable origin that had poor quality audio.
That's how I came into the possession of this. Specifically, some friends and I cut school to drive down to a Washington, D.C.-area store called Joe's Record Paradise after I'd discovered they had this in stock. We weren't slackers when it came to this stuff. We were serious enough about it to risk getting detention. (Or in my case, having my folks called in for a conference with the vice principal. Sorry, ma!)
I likened the experience to a spiritual journey. And as with most spiritual journeys, non-believers (i.e. most kids in high school) thought I was nuts. Whatever the case, this record was one of the sacraments on my quest to spiritual musical purity...or whatever it was. I knew it was a bunch of non-essential junk, but I still had to have it because it felt like the right thing to do in some larger sense.
In all, it's not a bad LP. The first side has a handful of frat-rocking pre-Velvet Underground songs by Lou Reed and/or John Cale done in their days as songwriters-for-hire with New York City's Pickwick Records. Elsewhere, there are also two spoken word tracks taken from "audible mediums" (i.e. a newspaper and a book that came with flexi-discs). It's not stuff you'll play every day, but an interesting peephole into the culture of the day. Finally the second side features four then-unreleased Velvets songs. These tracks sound grungier here than when they officially came out in 1985 and 1986, but on the plus side you get them without the digital reverb that was added to the released versions.
What really sold me on this album was the fact that it features two of the best things the band ever did: The soulful "Temptation Inside Your Heart" (titled here as "Inside Your Heart") and the garage punk anthem "Foggy Notion." Why these two brilliant songs were left unreleased in their day is a question for the ages. I was asking it back in 1981 when I bought this record, and I'm still wondering the same thing now.
(Funny addendum. I played a very minor role in the follow-up bootleg to this, which was called The Velvet Underground (And So On). In 1981, I wrote some letters to the people who ran a Velvet Underground fanzine, "What Goes On" -- the people who later put out that bootleg. At the time, I was so obsessed with this band that I'd taken to signing all my letters with "Linger on..." followed by my name instead of "Sincerely." "Linger on" is, of course, a key phrase in the V.U. song "Pale Blue Eyes." I did this to them a few times. When (And So On) came out, the liner notes were signed off with my signature "Linger On..." I wonder if they realized they'd gotten that from me, because they definitely were not addressing their correspondence this way before I wrote to them.)
The Velvet Underground - Squeeze (1973)
Nico - The Peel Sessions (1988; Recorded 1971)
1. The Beachnuts - Cycle Annie
2. The Primitives - The Ostrich
3. The Primitives - Sneaky Pete
4. The Roughnecks - You're Driving Me Insane
5. Index Flexi Disc - Conversation
6. The Velvet Underground - Foggy Notion
7. The Velvet Underground - Inside Your Heart
8. The Velvet Underground - I'm Sticking With You
9. The Velvet Underground - Ferryboat Bill
10. East Village Other LP - Noise