review of velvet underground's 1969 live

     by patti smith

[from CREEM, September 1974]

Not 70 still 60 on the tail where its dirty. In schools 64 we used to sit around presupposing the high ass larks that would go down when the jocks would sport a big 69 on the back of their sports-aire. When it was 69 we didn't care nor remember neither. Life itself was dirty enough. We were leaning over the jukebox cruci-fix pissing kisses farewell to flowers fables and the politics of speed and desire.

Lou Reed didn't seem hung up. Not on this set. The cross don't seem his true shape. The boy on this record was riding a wave -- seeming in a state of suspended joy. Longing checked in some roadhouse like Steve McQueen in Baby the Rain Must Fall. Not Mick Jagger no muscular sailor just ONE caught in a warp in some lost town and rising. The Velvets winding up the Sixties laying one long rhythmic fart across the West called Live in Texas; with Lou Reed winking right in the eye of that fart. I mean these boys may be outta tune but they were solid IN TIME. Theres nowhere higher while youre still in the body physical than to embrace the moment beautiful stranger. Fuck the future man the moment you are reading this is real. Performing is pain is pure ecstatic cut with adrenaline paranoia and any white light one can shoot on stage.

It is true pain when you are up there and cant connect. Like the veins plugged and the steam aint flowing and people are watching and you break down on your knees so desperate to bust the spleen to feel and roll in the white coils of the brain. And who beyond the performer is the most hungry for poetry in any form but the children the new masses and Lou Reed KNEW it -- never played down back then -- cause he knew that youth can eat the truth. Like it's all "I've Had It" by the Bell Notes only a whole higher ground another land of a thousand sensations in a land we try to leave when we age oh I see my friends they say man I gotta simmer down its too much pain but jesus let me rock back like peter pan I'd rather die than not take it out on the line one more time another risk is bliss.

That's why I love this record so much. It goes beyond risk and hovers like an electric moth. There is no question no apologizing there is just a trust a bond with time and god their relentlessly relaxed method of getting it on and over the land of strain. Like Rimbaud we rebel baptism but you know man needs water he needs to get clean keep washing over like a Moslem. Well this drowning is eternal and you dont have to track it lambkin you just lay back and let it pour over you. Dig it submit put your hands down your pants and play side C. "Ocean" is on and the head cracks like intellectual egg spewing liquid gold (jewel juice) and Lou is so elegantly restrained. It nearly drives me crazy. The cymbal is so light and the way they stroll into "Pale Blue Eyes" not unlike Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses" the way it comes on like a Genet love song.

And I love the way Lou talks like a warm nigger or slow bastard from Philly that THING that reeks of old records like golden oldies. A chord so direct it eel fucks you in the heart. I write Smith Corona electric resting on a huge speaker pulsing "Heroin." It makes my fingers vibrate. Anything electric is worth it. We are the true children of Frankenstein we were raised on electricity. On the late show the way the white light strobed his body over and over like sex and speed and all the flash it takes to make a man. "Heroin" moving on and in like a sob.

And its all past Lou just doesnt shoot anymore. And I dont know if hes dead center like he was in Texas 69 I dont know where he is at all. It doesnt matter this set stands in time like a Cartier gem. The only criticize I got is the eyes the cover eats shit. Music like this so black and white so 8 millimeter should have been wrapped in the perfect photograph -- a Mapplethorpe still life: syringe and shades and black muscle tee. L.R. + V.U. 69 are a kool creem oozing soothing mesmerizing like hypnos scooping wind down pain mountain. This double set is completely worth it not a bad cut always with it. It will relax you help it all to make sense the Sixties ended in a sea of warm puke delicate enough to be called art. And it was LIVE man with a few scattered rounds of slack applause a product as perfect as the mutualated victim. Theres no difference between after the murder and apres the perfect perform. And if Lou dont remember how it felt to shell it out you will not soon forget how it feels to hear. When the musics over and you turn out the light its like . . . coming down from a dream.

Copyright © Patti Smith 1974

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