Hear Lou Reed’s May 1965 ‘Men Of Good Fortune’ Demo
Stream the previously unreleased recording.
Lou Reed’s previously unreleased demo for “Men Of Good Fortune” arrived today. The recording is set for the upcoming collection, Words & Music, May 1965, due out on September 16 via Light in the Attic Records and in cooperation with Reed’s widow Laurie Anderson.
Words & Music, May 1965 is part of the larger Lou Reed Archive Series. In June, Light In The Attic detailed the project compiling never-before-heard Lou Reed recordings and shared the earliest known recorded version of the Reed-penned Velvet Underground song “I’m Waiting For The Man.” Another previously unreleased demo of a VU classic, “Heroin” arrived in July.
Reed recorded the demos with VU bandmate John Cale in May 1965 and then mailed the tapes to himself to create a “poor man’s copyright.” The recordings remained sealed in the original package for nearly 50 years. The latest from the collection is “Men Of Good Fortune,” although a press release noted: “This is not the song from Reed’s 1973 album Berlin.”
Archivists Jason Stern and Don Fleming provided some context:
“‘Men of Good Fortune’ has every trademark of one of the traditional Child Ballads from England and Scotland dating back for centuries and passed on from person to person. They had rarely been documented in print but were finally compiled in Francis James Child’s landmark book, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, published between 1882 and 1898. The Child Ballads were a great source of inspiration for folk artists in the early 1960s, with Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Fairport Convention borrowing heavily from the book. Child Ballad #2, ‘The Elfin Knight,’ through a series of other singers, informed Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country.’ Child Ballad #2 and many others include a ‘maiden’ or ‘maid,’ as Reed portrays himself in the song. It’s notable how the words to this version of ‘Men of Good Fortune’ could seemingly fit right in as a variant of a Child Ballad, but it doesn’t appear to borrow lines from the book or other songs, traditional or popular. Reed sings and plays the song alone.”
Listen to Lou Reed’s May 1965 ‘Men Of Good Fortune’ demo below: