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Lou Reed Papers: The Velvet Underground

The Hidden Corners of the Lou Reed Papers

Library Talks: Lou Reed on Playing Outside the Box

Library Talks

an NYPL podcast

Episode #72: Lou Reed in Playing Outside the Box, August 4, 2015

Lou Reed, Mo Tucker, and Doug Yule of the Velvet Underground reunited on December 8, 2009 at the Library for a discussion with Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke. In this provocative conversation, the three legendary musicians talk about strange performance venues, the energy of New York, and how it felt to go where no musician had gone before.

00:01:58 - Summit High School

00:03:44 - "Not the kind of thing you remember, Summit, New Jersey"

00:05:03 - Why Angus MacLise quit the Velvet Underground

00:05:59 - "In those days the movies didn't have sound so they would get us and we would sit in back of the screen and we would play along."

00:07:10 - Velvet Underground at the Café Bizarre

00:08:04 - Velvet Underground cause a riot at Café Bizarre

00:10:00 - Lou Reed writing early Velvet Underground songs

00:10:44 - "Warhol was one of the greatest people I've ever met in my entire life"

00:11:19 - Reed working with Andy Warhol

00:13:12 - Maureen Tucker on Andy Warhol

00:15:04 - The Primitives and their song "The Ostrich"

00:15:55 - Doug Yule's introduction to playing Rock and Roll

00:16:43 - Tucker on drumming, and binging it to the Velvet Underground

00:18:11 - Tucker joining the Velvet Underground

00:19:54 - Reed on Tucker's drumming

00:21:21 - on Sterling Morrison

00:24:22 - Yule first seeing the Velvet Underground, on not understanding the characters in the songs

00:26:03 - Yule living with Morrison

00:26:55 - Writing songs for Nico

00:27:50 - song "Melody Laughter" - "29 minutes of torture for Moe"

00:28:39 - on "Coney Island Baby" by The Excellents - "Those kinds of songs made me think I could write a song, and when I was 14 in high school, I did."

00:29:44 - "So Blue" by The Jades, trying to sell songs to The Jesters, The Flamingos, and The Diablos

00:30:54 - "The Wind" by Nolan Strong & the Diablos - "If I could really sing I would be Nolan Strong"

00:31:20 - Reed on learning his musical strengths

00:32:20 - Velvet Underground's $10.00 fine for playing a blues lick

00:33:16 - "Lonely Woman" by Ornette Coleman, on trying to see him live

00:35:33 - Yule's musical influences

00:36:07 - Yules joining Velvet Underground, on playing with Tucker

00:38:38 - the on-stage experience of Velvet Underground

00:40:14 - on recording "Sister Ray", "I don't have to listen to this shit. I'm going out. When you guys are done fucking around let me know."

00:41:00 - struggling with the recording industry, the "us vs. them mentality" - "we were trying to do a very specific thing..."

00:42:02 - Reed on ending collaboration with Andy Warhol.

00:42:46 - Halloween Mod Happening at Lester Airport, almost getting electrocuted.

00:45:04 - Velvet Underground touring after leaving Warhol and The Factory, "when Andy was out of it, that finished us for New York"

00:46:29 - playing clubs The Boston Tea Party, Boston and La Cave, Cleveland

00:47:25 - Velvet Underground in San Francisco

00:50:07 - on being quoted, about his book New York Art, on his Wikipedia article

00:52:31 - Visual presentation of the Velvet Underground, the black outfits and sunglasses

00:54:04 - Andy Warhol and the Banana, and cover art for White Light/White Heat

00:56:13 - Donald Greenhouse, about photo shoot with Velvet Underground, including Angus MacLise.

00:57:32 - "There wasn't an awful lot of planning going on early on..."

01:00:38 - opening for Bobby "Blue" Bland, and for a circus act.

01:02:17 - Story about Velvet Underground & Nico with Andy Warhol being stopped by the cops in California, "You're really near the state line. Why don't you cross it."

01:03:14 - Tucker and Yule at the factory.

01:04:36 - On how New York has changed.

01:07:52 - Reed on unofficial Velvet Underground releases, "I wish I had read that clause that says 'future technology'..." 

Lou Reed & John Cale

Lou Reed and John Cale were close friends, exploring for 3 years the same worlds of drugs, sex, and Rock and Roll. In early 1965 they were haphazardly thrown together through Pickwick record machinations, getting Cale a job at the label and starting off their collaboration with the short lived The Primitives. This promptly developed into the Velvet Underground, which quickly took on a real and promising life of it's own.John Cale & Lou Reed performing in 1990

The story is commonly told that Lou Reed, by the recording of White Light/White Heat, wanted to lean more towards Rock & Roll, bringing his literary interests into the popular music that he believed held so much promise, while John Cale considered the musical experimentation to be the envelope worth pushing on, seeing the shift to appealing to more popular and mainstream Rock & Roll sound to be a lost opportunity. Both bandmembers and onlookers, from various perspectives in time, generally agree that Reed was considering, or acting as if, the Velvet Underground were his group, which chafed Cale for obvious reasons. There were innumerable strains on their friendship - both were charismatic personalities in their own rights, and both have been called geniuses of their craft - but ultimately what evidently never failed them was a mutual respect for one another.

September 27 and 28, 1968 at the Boston Tea Party where the last two shows John Cale would play with the Velvet Underground. Back in New York, Lou Reed met with Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker and served the ultimatum - either he went or Cale went. Thus Cale was out of the band and wouldn't be back for over 20 years.


(Lou Reed Papers)

The Doug Yule Era

Lou Reed and Doug Yule(Lou Reed Papers)

Doug Yule, born February 25 1947, grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York where he learned singing, piano, baritone horn, tuba, banjo, and guitar. On graduating high school he moved to Boston to attend Boston University to study acting. His college career only lasted one year when, in 1966 he dropped out to joined Boston band Grass Menagerie. In 1967 he met the Velvet Underground through their road manager, from whom he was renting an apartment, and his home became a location where the band would sometimes stay when playing in the city. By mid-October 1968, Yule was a full fledged member of the band.

Nominally replacing John Cale, filling the newly vacated 4th position in the band and taking his roll on Bass and organ, Yule would bring a technical proficiency and improvisational style to the band. While it was arguably impossible for anyone to fill the void Cale left, Yule and Lou Reed worked together on a new sound that leveraged this new aspect of the band. Doug Yule proved himself in concert at  La Cave, another Velvet Underground haunt, in Cleveland, OH in early October. In the Salvatore Mercuri Velvet Underground collection we have a copy of the tour itinerary immediately following Yule's joining.   

Velvet Underground Tour Itinerary October 18 - November 30, 1968

(Salvatore Mercuri Velvet Underground collection)

Velvet Underground fans have a tendency to call the lineup with Cale the "Classic" Velvet Underground, and when the early 1990s reunions happened Yule was not a part of it. There were many internal-personal reasons for this within Velvet Underground alumni. It is worth point out that prior to Yule, both The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat had been considered borderline experimental by many and inaccessible - whos audience didn't stray to far beyond music critics. The two albums Reed and Yule worked on together, however, were well received at the time, and actually had the potential for airplay.

Releases Available at the Library