Stacks: The Velvet Underground

heystacks:

The Velvet Underground
“Lisa Says”
Live at End Cole Ave bootleg, 1969

This bootleg, recorded in October of 1969, has long been a favorite. The setlist covers more mellow territory than some of the famed feedback workouts in Boston, and even the burners here are loose and relaxed. The band plays this laid back version of “Lisa Says” immediately after their centerpiece rave-up “Sister Ray”, and it serves as an excellent palate cleanser.

But this isn’t really about “Lisa Says”. It’s about me and Lou Reed, and this recording, and being in Dallas. When Lou died a little while back I was much more broken up than I thought I would be. I’m a fan, but mainly of the music he recorded with the Velvets before I was born. I lost track of him as a living, working artist sometime in the mid-90s and never reconnected. I would hear of a new album, maybe read a review, but not take the time to track it down and listen. I did hear a bit of the Metallica collaboration, Lulu, but I couldn’t even make it to the end. The connection was long gone. I’m glad Lou kept working, following the path he chose for himself whether his audience followed or not. I respected it, but it wasn’t my Lou Reed. Mine was trapped in amber; a fossil of 1968, and 1975, and 1989.

So why did it seem so gut-wrenching when he passed? I didn’t know. It’s weeks later and I still wonder why it hurt knowing this relative stranger was no longer around. There was only one short moment, a mere handful of years, when the music and the person and myself shared a common meeting ground in time and space. Of course, the only thing we really shared was a bad permed mullet (No, you can’t see pictures), but I was a fan of his then current music before it was trapped in amber. If this was then, I’d understand. But 24 years later I have no idea why.

But obviously it did matter, much more than I would have imagined. I was online, reading remembrances, sharing thoughts, striving for community where there was none at hand. And that says something about me, and about Dallas. I didn’t know if there were any of my friends here who felt the same. I have made a few solid connections, but we’re still in the building stages of what I hope will be close and long lasting relationships. It’s not like when I was a kid, when I could forge a friendship over an afternoon that would still be strong 30+ years later. There is so much history, so much baggage, and the whole thing takes longer to cement. So where was I to turn, in this city I live in but don’t call home?

I felt a little lost, and a little alone. Then I remembered this recording, and how it was bootlegged at a long lost club here in town. Sometime last year this same thought had occurred to me and I had found a website that listed an address: 4926 Cole Ave, Dallas. So the afternoon Lou died, I loaded this show on my phone and headed out. It’s only about a ten-minute drive from my house, and on a Sunday afternoon the office building that now stands at that address was empty. Which was good, for I stood on the sidewalk, listening and staring at the building’s glass facade for some time. I wondered what it was like that night. Wondered what the building was like, where the stage would have been. I wondered whether Lou had ever given the place a thought after the 1974, when Mercury records released the 1969: The Velvet Underground Live album which included three songs from this same show. I stood there, listening, and it made me feel better.

After a while I decided I had creeped out the folks prepping for the evening’s business at the restaurant next door and it was time to go. I took my time walking down the block to my car, and sat for a while before putting the key in the ignition and heading home. I didn’t have any answers, but it cut the anxiety about it to just a feeling of loss. And it was alright. Yeah, it was alright.

—Erik

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