The Velvet Underground are my favorite band (fellow fans will notice that this blog’s title comes from a line in their song “New Age”). Their fantastic double-live album 1969: Velvet Underground Live With Lou Reed is one of my favorites of their releases.
When 1969 Live was first issued in 1974, it was a revelation to the band’s fanbase. Nearly every song is different in style and arrangement from its studio counterpart. It features early versions of some songs that were radically different than their eventual studio versions. And it has some songs that have never had a studio version released. With most audience applause edited out, its sound is often more akin to the lo-fi genre than your typical live rock album.
Even with all that considered, 1969 Live was always a bit compromised. The bulk of the album comes from recordings made in November of that year at the famous San Francisco venue The Matrix, which featured an eight-track recording desk at its soundboard. But when compiling 1969 Live, Mercury Records didn’t use the original eight-track recordings, working with two-track mixdowns instead. Four of the songs were recorded a month earlier in Texas at the oddly named venue End Cole Avenue. Even though fine-sounding tapes of the End Cole shows have circulated for years (under the name End of Cole Avenue, more pleasing to the ear but technically incorrect) the ones that made it to Mercury were clearly second (or third) generation copies.
Upon the album’s release, the owners of The Matrix sued right away, claiming ownership of the 13 songs recorded there. By using multi-generation two-track copies instead of the original eight-track recordings, it does seem as if Mercury were trying to avoid working with The Matrix. An out-of-court settlement was reached fairly quickly.
When the album made it to CD in 1988, even some of those two-track mixdowns must have been misplaced by Mercury, as a good portion of the CD is obviously sourced from a vinyl copy of 1969 Live. This is an album that has badly needed a remaster.
All the while, the original eight-track recordings were in possession of The Matrix’s owners (or their heirs). Money issues were apparently still the reason these first-generation recordings never saw release, until an agreement was finally reached in 2014. That year, the cream of the crop of the Matrix tapes were released across two CDs in the 6xCD “super deluxe” 45th anniversary edition of the band’s third album. A year later, the entirety of all the recordings were finally released, 46 years after they were laid down on tape, as the 4xCD box set The Complete Matrix Tapes.
Using The Complete Matrix Tapes and the bootleg CD Live at the End of Cole Avenue: The Second Night, I have reconstructed 1969 Live with the best sounding materials available. I have attempted to match the edits of applause and fade-outs as they were originally applied on 1969, although I didn’t get it quite right on some songs. But I don’t think anyone will mind, given the vast improvement in sound.
As mentioned above, the CD version of 1969 is quite lacking. Beyond the sound quality issues, Mercury split the double album into two CDs, labeled Volume 1 and Volume 2, and sold them separately. On the positive side, both CDs were budget-priced, and each featured an extra track. But while the addition of “I Can’t Stand It” on Volume 2 was much appreciated, adding another version of “Heroin” at the end of Volume 1 was a bit redundant. If you listen to both CDs in order, trying to duplicate the running order of the original double LP, you’ll hear “Heroin” and then hear it again right after “Ocean” and “Pale Blue Eyes.”
To fix this, I’ve added the awesome guitar-rave-up version of “There She Goes Again” that debuted on 45th anniversary edition of the third album, as the bonus track on disc one. Disc two follows the Volume 2 CD tracklisting and features “I Can’t Stand It” as its penultimate song.
I think all Velvets fans who love 1969 will really enjoy this private remaster. Grab the zipped-up FLACs from the download links below. Enjoy!