Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lou Reed Acoustic Demo's 1970

In August of 1970 Lou Reed quit the Velvet Underground. This decision was followed by a severe mental breakdown and two long years of regret and isolation. At that point the Velvet Underground was a complete financial failure. Lou was broke and disillusioned. He didn't see much of a future for himself in the music business so he moved back to Long Island to live with his parents in the suburb of Freeport where he took a low paying job at his father's accounting firm as typist. 

These demo's were recorded during the fall and winter of 1970. They reflect Lou at his lowest point. He didn't make any more live appearances that year after leaving the Velvet Underground. The only thing he recorded were these twelve tracks. They are the first known recordings of Lou Reed as a solo artist. 

The fall of 1970 was a strange and dark time in Rock and Roll. The whole artistic world was in transition. The 1960's had just ended and the entire counter culture was searching for a new identity and means of survival in an increasingly harsh and unloving world. This transcendent bummer was only made worse by the death of hippie idols Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. 

Reed was particularly shook up by Hendrix's death partially because he was an admirer of Hendrix's style but also because he saw himself as the next potential victim of the rock and roll lifestyle. During this period Reed was also searching for a new identity and relevance. He began seeing a psychoanalyst. He replaced his use of amphetamine and heroin with a new regimen of pharmaceutical narcotics. 

Most of the songs on this demo were used on later Lou Reed albums. A few of these songs were also recorded with the Velvet Underground before Reed's departure however those recordings were not available until 1985. At the time Reed recorded this demo none of theses songs had ever been released to the general public.

This tape was not meant to be heard by fans. Most likely it was for Lou's personal use so many of these songs are works in progress. Most of these tracks are not much diffrent than their official liscensed counterparts, except for a lot of shortened intros and a few skipped guitar solos, but a couple of the recordings are barely recognizable as the building blocks of the finished product. This recording serves as an important snapshot of an artists in transition and of a lost and confused man in rapidly changing world.

"Going Down" and "Walk It and Talk It" both appeared one year later on his eponymous solo debut. The Demo version of "Going Down" shares a common chorus with the Album version but most everything else is different.   

He does an early rendition of "I'm So Free" and "Lonely Saturday Night (aka Goodnight Ladies)" which came out on Transformer in 1972. The song recorded here as "Lonely Saturday Night" was later reworked and turned into the second half of the song which evenentually became "Goodnight Ladies" .  

He also does an early version of  "Looking Through The Eyes of Love (aka Oh Jim)" which eventually evolved into the song "Oh Jim" on Berlin in 1973. These two songs contain a number of lyrical similarities to each other, but they are structurally and thematically different. "Oh Jim" is a song about a man jaded by stardom and "Looking through the eyes of hate". "Oh Jim" is very dark and bitter especially when compared to the surprisingly upbeat version of the song found on this demo which is an optimistic tune about "Looking through the eyes of love."

Another song on here that is dramitcaly diffrent than the stuido version is "Kill Our Sons (aka Kill Your Sons)" which was later released as "Kill Your Sons" on Sally Can't Dance in 1974. These two songs share a common structure, music, and chorus but the lyrics and meaning of the two are completely different. The recording on this demo, "Kill Our Sons" is a very typical protest song about the Vietnam war. It may have meant something at the time, but in retrospect it sounds very naive and it makes Lou Reed come across like a hippie. It is probably best that this version never got released. The later version of the song "Kill Your Sons" is about electro-shock treatment and it's mentally crippling side effects. This songs was inspired by Reed's personal experiences as a teenager growing up in the 1950's. At the age of fourteen he was subjected to a series of electro-shock therapy sessions with the intention of curing him of his homo-sexual feelings. Lou was still pretty gay after getting electro-shock therapy but as a result he has suffered long lasting effects of memory loss and he described himself as feeling like a vegetable.

"Ride Into the Sun", "She's My Best Friend", and "I'm Sticking With You" were all recorded for the infamous "Lost" Velvet Underground album but never appeared in any of Lou Reed's solo work other than on this Demo. The Demo take of "She's My Best Friend" is much more subdued than the Velvet Underground version. The lyrics are the same except the Reed sings the verses in a slightly different order. The demo version of "I'm Sticking With You" is a noteworthy because Lou Reed sings the song himself instead of Maureen Tucker who always sang that song for the Velvet Underground.  

"I Can't Stand it Anymore" and "Lisa Says" were both recorded for the "Lost" Velvet Underground album and then they were later re-recorded for Lou Reed's self-titled debut. The Version of "Lisa Says" on the Demo is completely different than the Velvet Underground version but it is relatively similar to the Self-Titled version. On the Demo and Velvet Underground version of "I Can't Stand It" Reed sings, "If Shelly would Just come back it would be alright," during the chorus. On his self-titled album he sings "If Penny would Just come back it would be alright". In addition each version of "I Can't Stand it Anymore" features three verses. The first two verse are always the same but the third verse changes on each recording. In the Velvet Underground version the final verse is just a repeat of the first verse. In this Demo version Reed Sings:

I'm Tired of Being Alone
I never once had a home-home
So when things get too hard
I just play my music loud-loud

On his Self Titled Album Reed Sings:

I'm Tired of Being Alone 
No one ever calls me on the phone
But when things aren't getting better
I just play my music louder

The rarity on this collection is "So In Love".  It was never performed with the Velvet Underground and Reed never re-recorded it for any of his later albums. This Demo is the only available recording of this song.

The sound quality of this recording is good not great. It is a little distorted and there are lots of hisses and pops, but I assume this is of comparable quality to the average demo tape made in 1970. Despite the low-fidelity these recording are an essential collector's item due to the unique performance and historical significance of this little documented period in Lou Reed's life.

Lou Reed
Demo Tape
Recorded: Fall and Winter of 1970
Length: 31min 52sec.
Size: 54.3mb

Set List

Fall 1970:
1. I'm So Free
2. I Can't Stand It
3. Walk and Talk It

Winter 1970:
4. Going Down
5. Ride Into the Sun
6. I'm Stick With You
7. Lisa Says
8. Kill Our Sons (aka Kill Your Sons)
9. Lonely Saturday Night (aka Goodnight Ladies)
10. So in Love*
11. She's My Best Friend
12. Looking Through the Eyes of Love (aka Oh Jim)

*This track is not available on any other recordings.



  1. Can you repost this? It is simply refusing to download...Mediafire usually works, too...

    Also, any chance you have this in lossless? I'd really appreciate it, man, and thanks for the info!

  2. Fantastic...thank you SOOOO MUCH!

  3. I thought "Ride Into the Sun" appeared on Reed's S/T debut album. I may be wrong though.

  4. @ polkatronixx - you're right, it is on his debut solo album replete with a guitar solo from none other than Steve Howe who later of course shred for and wrote the best stuff by the band Yes. o_0!

    Many thanks to the uploader and for the great great blog too!

    1. I also wanted to add "She's My Best Friend" was also re-done for Lou's 1975 solo album Coney Island Baby

  5. These are great. Thanks for sharing