"I was working for a record company as a songwriter," Lou Reed remembered in 1972, "where they'd lock me in a room and they'd say, 'Write ten surfing songs,' ya know, and I wrote 'Heroin' and I said, 'Hey, I've got something for ya.' They said, 'Never gonna happen, never gonna happen.'" Reed wasn't able to introduce "Heroin" to the world until March 1967 when the Verve label released The Velvet Underground & Nico. The VU's debut album disappointed commercially but became greatly influential; Brian Eno once quipped that while the LP only sold around 30,000 copies in its first five years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!" (It's been cited that it actually sold over 58,000 copies in two years.) The influence of Lou Reed, who died in 2013 at the age of 71, as a songwriter and an artist, has remained mighty over the ensuing decades. On August 26, 2022, Light in the Attic will launch The Lou Reed Archive Series with Words & Music, May 1965. Available on CD, cassette, and multiple vinyl formats, Words & Music will collect some of Reed's earliest and most significant recordings.
Produced in cooperation with Reed's widow Laurie Anderson and the Lou Reed Archive, Words & Music features 17 tracks on CD and cassette - all of which are previously unreleased, including seven unheard Reed compositions. The standard vinyl editions present 10 songs. As the title indicates, the lion's share of the tracks was recorded in May 1965. These songs were written by Reed and committed to tape with the help of VU bandmate John Cale. Reed then mailed the tape to himself as a "poor man's copyright." LITA asserts that the envelope remained sealed and unopened for more than 50 years; it now forms the basis of this project. Those May 1965 demos included "Heroin" and "I'm Waiting for the Man," both of which would appear on The Velvet Underground & Nico, as well as "Pale Blue Eyes" which belatedly appeared on the band's self-titled third album in 1969. "Men of Good Fortune" (rewritten by Reed for 1973's Berlin), "Too Late," "Walk Alone," and a Cale-led "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" (released by Nico on 1967's Chelsea Girl) are among the other titles preserved by Reed on that spring day.
The seven bonus tracks on CD, cassette, and deluxe vinyl only go even further back in Reed's history. A tape of 16-year old Reed and his group The Jades (also known as The Shades) warbling "Gee Whiz" dates back to 1958. Songs recorded during his time at Syracuse University in 1963-1964 find him experimenting with folk ("Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right") and blues ("W & X, Y, Z Blues," the untitled "Lou's Twelve-Bar Instrumental") as he searches for what would become his own distinctive sound.
The collection has been produced by Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, Jason Stern, the late Hal Willner, and LITA's Matt Sullivan, and mastered from the original analog tapes by John Baldwin. Greil Marcus and Reed archivists Don Fleming and Jason Stern have all contributed liner notes, and the package has been designed by Masaki Koike. The CD booklet is 60 pages while the LP's booklet is 28 pages.
Words & Music - May 1965 is coming August 26 on CD, cassette, black vinyl LP, and yellow vinyl LP, as well as a CD/2-LP/7-inch vinyl Deluxe Edition (the latter with all 17 tracks on CD and vinyl). This foil-numbered Deluxe Edition limited to 7,500 units is housed in a die-cut gatefold printed at Stoughton and contains a 28-page saddle-stitched, die-cut book of lyrics, photos, and liner notes. The vinyl versions have been pressed at RTI. An 8-track cassette version sold out almost immediately. You'll find pre-order links for all available versions below. (Amazon links are active but not yet open for pre-orders.)
Lou Reed, Words & Music - May 1965 (Light in the Attic, 2022)
CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada
Black Vinyl LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada
Yellow Vinyl LP: Light in the Attic Store
Cassette: Light in the Attic Store
CD/2LP/7" Vinyl Deluxe Edition: Light in the Attic Store
May 1965 Demos
- I'm Waiting for the Man
- Men of Good Fortune
- Too Late
- Buttercup Song
- Walk Alone
- Buzz Buzz Buzz
- Pale Blue Eyes
- Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
- I'm Waiting for the Man (Alternate Version)
- Gee Whiz (1958 Rehearsal)
1963-1964 Home Recordings
- Baby Let Me Follow You Down
- Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
- Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
- W & X, Y, Z Blues
- Lou's 12-Bar Instrumental
Tracks 1-10 on standard LPs
Tracks 1-17 on CD, cassette, and Deluxe Box Set