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10 September 2022

Laurie Anderson Talks Lou Reed Demo Collection

Lou Reed
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Laurie Anderson has spoken to the Guardian about Words & Music, May 1965, the inaugural release in the Lou Reed Archive series.

Released in tandem with the late artist’s 80th birthday celebrations, the album offers an extraordinary, unvarnished, and plainly poignant insight into one of America’s true poet-songwriters. Capturing Reed in his formative years, this previously unreleased collection of songs—penned by a young Lou Reed, recorded to tape with the help of future bandmate John Cale, and mailed to himself as a “poor man’s copyright”—remained sealed in its original envelope and unopened for nearly 50 years.

Anderson said, “He would have loved this tape if he had listened to it – I really can’t stand it when people say what a dead person would like. Really? How do you know that? My guess is that he would have been interested in this young guy who was so ambitious, and so much the same person as the old guy, you know?”

The early demo makes it clear how much of an influence Bob Dylan was on the young Lou Reed, according to Anderson, “Dylan is the answer for most of the things on there,” says Anderson. “His harmonica, the whine, the tone. Empathy and the underdog and voices that are not heard, not the voice of the heroic songwriter poet. We talked about Dylan now and then, and it was a complicated relationship. But Dylan made a big impression on him.”

The discovery of the tape was a surprise, Anderson reflecting on Reed’s relationship with his past, “I wouldn’t say that because he kept things, he was aware of their value. He didn’t think about his stuff that way. He wasn’t curating at all. He really wasn’t that interested in his past. He just left it there. This stuff was not important to him.”

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)

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