Remembering Lou Reed: Listen To The Velvet Underground ‘Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes’

Listen to a Velvet Underground recording taped from inside Lou Reed's guitar amp.

By Nate Todd Oct 27, 2021 11:07 am PDT

Lou Reed sadly died on this date in 2013 from complications due to liver disease. He was 71 years old. Reed was born on March 2, 1942 in New York City, a place which he personified throughout his career as an iconic vocalist, poet and musician beginning in earnest with his work in The Velvet Underground in 1964.

The highly influential group’s sound exuded the grittiness of Gotham and paved the way for movements that would emerge from the underground like punk rock and grunge. Driving that sound was Lou’s rhythm guitar playing. For fans wanting an emersion in the axe work of Reed, there are the “Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes.”

On March 15, 1969, The Velvet Underground delivered the final of three performances at The Boston Tea Party in Boston, Massachusetts where a fan placed a mic in the back of Reed’s guitar amp. The result was “a mighty electronic roar that reveals the depth and layers of Reed’s playing. Over and undertones, feedback, string buzz, the scratch of fingers on frets and the crackle and hum of tube amps combine to create a monolithic blast of metal machine music,” a reviewer wrote in Head Heritage in 2010.

Considering the mic is in Lou’s amp, “monolithic” is an apropos adjective although his amp must have been close to Moe Tucker’s drum kit as the cutting cymbals and snare come through while the kick is hard to discern. The amp may also have been next to guitarist Sterling Morrison’s as his work can be heard as well. But Reed’s vocals and amazing lyrics are nearly inaudible, making the “Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes” a document of Reed’s often underrated work as a guitarist.

The lion’s share of the “LGAT” comes from the band’s performance at Boston Tea Party on March 15, 1969 and features VU classics like “I’m Waiting For the Man,” “White Light/White Heat,” “Heroin” and more. The audio embedded below also boasts recordings from the band’s earlier performances at the shortlived but storied venue with performances of “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Foggy Notion” and “Run Run Run” among others.

To remember Lou Reed, listen to the “Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes” below:

[Hat Tip – Open Culture]
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