Live at the Matrix in San Francisco, November-December 1969: Though Velvet Underground recordings (and great ones) at the Matrix in November form the bulk of the classic album 1969 Velvet Underground Live, it's been confirmed that about four hours of unissued material from their performances at the club this fall exist. It's known that 42 such songs survive on half-inch, four-track tape. Among them are versions of a few tunes not to appear on 1969 Velvet Underground Live, including three of "There She Goes Again," two of both "Venus in Furs" and "After Hours," and one apiece of "The Black Angel's Death Song," "I'm Set Free," and "Sister Ray." There are also additional, as-yet-unreleased Matrix versions of most of the songs that do make it onto 1969 Velvet Underground Live, including no less than four of "Heroin," and more than one of a few of the others.
Two-to-three-minute excerpts of nine of these tracks and a seven-minute excerpt of "Sister Ray"—all starting at the beginning of the songs, and fading out mid-performance—that have leaked into circulation verify that the sound quality on these recordings is outstanding, and notably (though not hugely) superior to the tapes used on 1969 Velvet Underground Live. Of even more interest, the performances themselves are good-to-superb, including a version of the rarely-heard "There She Goes Again" with noticeably more jagged rhythm guitar than the studio cut; "I'm Set Free" with magnificent Reed lead vocals; a really slowed-down "I'm Waiting for the Man" with great curling blues guitar riffing, and a cool interjection of ominously stroked chords right after the white boy's asked what he's doing uptown; and a "Sister Ray" that starts off super-slow and bluesy, but just keeps accelerating in rhythm and intensity until the tape cruelly cuts off. If not quite as novel, the other excerpts—including "Ocean," "Some Kinda Love" (introduced as "an alcoholic's dream"), "The Black Angel's Death Song," "After Hours," and two versions of "Venus in Furs"—likewise make the Velvet Underground fan yearn for the day when these tapes can be released.
In addition, seven unreleased performances from rehearsals taped by Robert Quine in November at the Matrix and/or another San Francisco venue (the Family Dog) have leaked into circulation. These have fairly good sound quality, comparable to tracks officially issued on The Quine Tapes. One standout is an "It's All Too Much" that starts off in a bluesier, slower state than its more frenetic 1969 Velvet Underground Live version, but picks up the pace after a few dramatic door-shutting percussive/power chord slams, as if the band's impatient to kick it into higher gear. And Lou's deadpan aside to Morrison at the beginning of the instrumental break—"rock on, Sterl," a la Ringo Starr's exhortation to George Harrison to "rock on George, one time for me" in the Beatles' "Honey Don't"—is probably the highlight of the whole batch.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.