The official version of the Velvet Underground's visit to The End of Cole in the fall of 1969 makes up one of the greatest live albums of all time: 1969: The Velvet Underground Live, though truth is much of it comes from a month-later set at The Matrix in San Francisco. That's the record from which the Cowboys Junkies would lift their "Sweet Jane" years later -- the one with the bit about heavenly wine and roses, the slow version, by far the best version of that immortal.
It's also the record that opens in Dallas, with Lou Reed asking the crowd about curfews, about whether it wants one long set or two short ones. "Pull up your cushions," he says, sounding friendly than I've ever heard him, "or whatever else you have with you that makes life bearable in Texas." The crowd moans. But Lou quickly wins 'em over by talking Cowboys-Eagles, a Dallas blowout. And then, straight into: "I'm Waiting for the Man."
That show was October 19, 1969 -- which I didn't know till years later was the second night of the band's visit. And so, tonight, on the occasion of Lou Reed's 70th birthday, I leave you with this: The Velvet Underground at End of Cole on October 18, 1969. Happy birthday, Lou; Merry Christmas to us all.
Both shows were recorded by the same guy: Jeff Leegood. During the first set he was far away from the stage; for the second, much closer, invited up, given a comfy spot, which is why it makes up The Official Document. Here's a great oral history of the Velvets' visit, told by those who were there, among them Leegood, who recounts:
[The Velvets were] regular people. Sterling used to smoke, so he was quiet and stoned. Lou and Mo were pretty nice. Doug Yule was kind of a dick. They weren't into drugs. Lou might have done some diet pills, but they didn't do hard drugs, at least not then, and they didn't like being around people who did. They just sang about it. Lou would say, "I saw it on Dragnet." In hindsight, I wish I'd taken films. There were no videos then, but I had access to an Aries 16mm camera.
This is a deservedly beloved boot often referred to as The First Night; if nothing else, it's complete in a way the official release isn't, and you can experience an in-its-entirety Velvet Underground set -- the constant ebb and flow, the control and chaos, the gentle rock and pulverizing roll that gets chopped into pieces on the 1969 two-fer. It even comes with a second section, known as the After-Show Jam, which takes some work to get all the way through. But, hey, we've got nothing time.
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