Light in the Attic has partnered with Laurie Anderson for the Lou Reed Archive Series, which begins with the release of Words & Music, May 1965 on August 26. The album is a previously unreleased collection of songs recorded by a young Reed with his future Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale. Reed sealed the recordings in an envelope and mailed them to himself as a “poor man’s copyright,” and they include early demos of his most iconic songs. Listen to the remastered recording of “I’m Waiting for the Man” below.
The record announcement comes as New York Library prepares to unveil the Lou Reed archives this week, with Reed’s box of demoes among the exhibits.
The collection also includes the earliest known recordings of “Heroin” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” plus multiple previously unreleased compositions. There’s a Cale-fronted version of Nico’s Chelsea Girl song “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” an early rendition of the Berlin song “Men of Good Fortune,” and a rarity oft-discussed in Velvet Underground mythology, “Buttercup Song.”
The record will be available in a variety of formats, including LP, cassette, CD, 8-track, and digital editions. The deluxe 2xLP edition will be limited to 7,500 copies and feature a die-cut gatefold jacket. It comes with a bonus Third Man–pressed 7″ featuring six songs that include early demos and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
Words & Music, May 1965 was produced by Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, Jason Stern, Hal Willner, and Matt Sullivan. Greil Marcus provides liner notes. On the same day the album will be released, a new podcast about the collection, hosted by TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, will debut.
Before settling on New York Public Library, Anderson had planned to host Reed’s archives in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, The New York Times notes. The Times says “she changed her mind in 2015 after a law was passed in Texas allowing people to carry handguns on college campuses.” The archive also includes finds such as a tape labeled “Electric Rock Symphony,” considered a precursor to Metal Machine Music. Only last month, archivists dated to the tape to the mid-sixties, showing how long the record’s style had been gestating, The Times points out.
Words & Music, May 1965:
01 I’m Waiting for the Man (May 1965 Demo)
02 Men of Good Fortune (May 1965 Demo)
03 Heroin (May 1965 Demo)
04 Too Late (May 1965 Demo)
05 Buttercup Song (May 1965 Demo)
06 Walk Alone (May 1965 Demo)
07 Buzz Buzz Buzz (May 1965 Demo)
08 Pale Blue Eyes (May 1965 Demo)
09 Stockpile (May 1965 Demo)
10 Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (May 1965 Demo)
11 I’m Waiting for the Man (May 1965 Alternate Version)
12 Gee Whiz (1958 Rehearsal)
13 Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (1963/64 Home Recording)
14 Michael, Row The Boat Ashore (1963/64 Home Recording)
15 Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Partial) (1963/64 Home Recording)
16 W & X, Y, Z Blues (1963/64 Home Recording)
17 Lou’s 12-Bar Instrumental (1963/64 Home Recording)