The Velvet Underground – At The Factory: Warhol Tapes (Nothing Songs Limited – NSCD-002-2005)

At The Factory: Warhol Tapes (Nothing Songs Limited – NSCD-002-2005)

Tracklist : Walk Alone – Venus In Furs / Cracking Up – ‘Rhythm & Blues Instrumental’ – Run Run Run Intro to miss Joanie Lee – Day Tripper intro to Boom Boom Boom instrumental – ‘Rockabilly Instrumental’ – ‘Blues Instrumental’ – Heroin – There She Goes Again – Green Onions – There She Goes Again – Heroin – I’ll Keep It With Mine – European Son / Suzie Q – Get It On Time – I’ll Be Your Mirror 

“Commercial” isn’t a word that could ever really be applied to a band like the Velvet Underground & it’s with this release that their sound & function seems to be followed the most. Recorded as a rehearsal at Andy Warhol’s Factory ( his New York City studio between 1962 & 1968 & where, as John Cale has quoted, “It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day something new.” ) on January 3rd, 1966 for the “Tight Up ” – Plastic Exploding Inevitable – a “happening”currated by Warhol & featuring The Velvet Underground & Nico & also screenings of Warhol’s films & performances & dancing featuring Factory regulars including Mary Woronov & Edie Sedgwick that “happened” on the 13th January at a dinner for The New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry. 

 The recording is a rather roughshod & gritty listen possibly recorded on none professional equipment – it starts by fading up quickly, a loud rumble of bass & laughter from the band. The tape is littered with speech from the band & a very lo-fi hum from the amps. the first highlight is the never before released “Walk Alone” an unfinished jam / riff from Lou’s notebooks – an almost entirely instrumental piece with a little harmonizing & lyric testing in the background. It sounds a little like a simple folk riff played on electric guitar – rather Byrdian in it’s rhythm. “Venus in Furs / Crackin’ Up” appears next as the band play about with various guitar licks & more harmonizing – this they’ll do numerous times over the course of the session while they mess around & generally get a feel for their sound.

“Run Run Run intro to Miss Joanie Lee” is a bursting to the hilt, 12 minutes long, as the band rattle along to this song from the eponymous V.U. album mixed with the unreleased song. Lou prods along at this one with his slightly laconic playfulness, scat-singing various parts with the band throwing in their parts as & when. At the 4 minute mark someone [ John Cale? ] starts experimenting with sounds & rhythms on his frets, twisting & turning out various squelchy sounds & generally throwing things up in the air. Various bass variations & nasty, feral guitar solos follow this & continue pretty much all the way to the end with no real vicissitude, feeling like it could be the black sheep child of ‘Sister Ray’ & would be best played out, strung out at one of their happenings.

“Day Tripper intro in to Boom Boom Boom Instrumental” is just as it says it is. A brief snatch of the Beatles song from ‘Rubber Soul’ straight in to another ragged furnish to this song. there is a cut at 1:30 when the tape fades in again the band have increased the tempo to an almost maddening pace that peaks it’s head every so often as the song snakes between head rush driving speed & a rather more placid roll. “Rockabilly Instrumental” begins with a brief studio chat snippet –   Lou says “Are we doing this .. ” then Mo Tucker exclaims something akin to an announcement that marks the track as “Take 5” before the band launch in to a brief hillbilly bar room stomp. “Blues Instrumental” is marred by a lot of static on the CD – extremely so for the first 42 seconds when the tape cuts & the sound brightens considerably but the fault still remains within.

“Heroin” glistens under the mire & is very much the highlight of this CD although it’s quite faithful to the album version & despite being recorded with voices unmiked it’s electrifying tempo changes, mellotron whispers pared with Lou’s vocals are a heavenly blend & only serve to add more to the workings & ballast of the song. “Green Onions” is a rather faithful ( V.U. style ) rendition of this Booker T. & the M.G’s track – fluid guitar soloing replacing the organs from the original. Towards the end the song slows down almost to a crawl while Lou turns to chopping out riffs until the song glides to an end finalizing with pearls of laughter. “There She Goes Again” – Nico’s contribution, who indeed vocalises on this track – this selection of rehearsal fragments starts with the band working out chords & Lou suggesting that they “Do it in ‘G'” for John Cale to ask about a part in the song to which Lou replys “We’ll leave it out for the time being. We’ll figure it out.” John isn’t impressed by this reply but goes on regardless. This take collapses to a false start only to start again for a slightly longer track which again breaks down when Nico misses her cue.

The next take starts again in ernest with vocals more to the fore but Nico’s struggling with the lyrics. Her voice, while catnip to some, is excitingly flat & unpolished. very probably just what Andy, Lou & John wanted. As rehearsals continue Nico gets to grip with the harmonies coming in from the band & the changes in tone. after the 4th breakdown & restart Lou is getting a little more exacerbated & annoyed with the faults & so lends his voice sing along side Nico so they can pick up the rhythm. Though despite these run throughs Nico evidently wasn’t for this song & Lou would take over this song later.

Now for the live part – this section is recorded at the Up Tight Performance at the Cinematheque, New York on February 6th 1966. The 2nd take of “Heroin” on this disk sounds much more distant than the first ( possibly take from an audience tape ) & the mellotron takes center stage pretty much overtaking everything else & someone is a little too close to the microphone as the squealing & distortion would be too much even for the most dedicated masochist.  “Keep It With Mine” is a little easier to listen to being rather less distorted & is sung over the Velvet Underground’s own “I’m Waiting For The Man” riff. “European Son / Suzie Q” rounds off the live event & is a monstrous riff attack on the sensibilities of the crowd that were there. Almost a sprawling mess of guitar licks, feedback & bass – think “The Gift” while necking beer & other narcotics & you’re somewhere around that area. 

Both “Get It On Time” & “I’ll Be Your Mirror” come from another rehearsal at the Factory on march 7th, 1966 for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour – they’re both around the same sort of fidelity at the songs from the Up Tight performance – “Get It On Time” an unreleased Lou Reed track breaks down a short while in to the song & then restarts. It’s quite a hoppy country styled song with Velvet Underground style touches but certainly isn’t their best track. “I’ll Be Your Mirror” is more of a languid & slower paced track sound by Stirling Morrison. The track is spoken over by two Factory employes discussing setting up the rehearsal space for a photo shoot & whether Andy Warhol is aware that the space that the V.U. are using will be needed. 

there has been some debate about the genesis of this bootleg – MJG196 on The Velvet Underground – It’s All Too much fan site wrote “Back in the prehistoric days, before torrents & FTP, was this thing called ‘Trading CD’s thru the mail’ One of the guys i traded with said he had something very special if I’d like to hear it, on the condition that i never trade it until he said it was OK to. He sent me the disk! Someone who had access to the recording at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, PA recorded it & made a copy for himself & a friend. That friend made me a copy, which is where these files were extracted from. “

the poster goes on to mention that from this CD he made a lossy copy for a girlfriend so she could play it on a portable music player & then the ( lossy ) songs were posted up on “The Velvet Forum” & used for this release from Nothing Songs. The poster goes on to say that the songs on his original CDR are ALSO lossy but are inline with what was ripped from the Andy Warhol archives so it would seem that any version of these songs would not have a full sonic experience no mater in what form the appear in. 

For anyone seeking a silverdisk of these recordings then this is the best that you’ll find unless someone finds the original CDR from the museum & presses it. For the completist only. 

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