Talents don’t come much purer than David Bowie and Lou Reed, so when they joined forces in 1997 to take on The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting for The Man’ it was a moment for the history books. Bowie and Reed shared a long and fruitful relationship that saw them go through thick and thin together and, with this performance, the pair display the innate chemistry they shared.
Bowie first discovered his love of The Velvet Underground when he and the band were both relative unknowns back in 1967 and, predictably, it was love at first sight. In the winter of 1966, Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt took artist and agitator Andy Warhol to lunch. Pitt was in town on a junket and was keen to speak with Warhol about his “house” band, the Velvet Underground. Warhol was less than interested in anything Pitt had to say and rather coldly suggested Pitt could promote the band using his own money and, abruptly, that was it.
As such, Warhol gave Pitt an acetate of The Velvet Underground & Nico, the band’s debut LP, and sent him off back to Blighty. While nothing would ever come of the suggested promotion deal, Pitt did begin one of the most creative partnerships in rock and roll as he handed Bowie a copy of the album, who instantly fell in love.
Following Reed’s departure from The Velvet Underground, his career was at a standstill with his next move remaining unclear — he then enlisted the help of Bowie and the rest is history. Bowie had just become a sensation after his evolution into Ziggy Stardust captivated the world and he wanted to use his rub to help other talents he admired.
The Starman took Reed under his wing in London and produced the seminal Transformer LP which remains one of the greatest albums of all time, one that finally gave the former Velvet Underground the solo attention that he truly deserved.
When Bowie became a paid up citizen of Reed’s native New York City and celebrated his 50th birthday with an epic show at Madison Square Garden, it was a no brainer to get his old friend involved in proceedings. The special gig saw Bowie bring out an array of A-list names which also included Dave Grohl, The Cure’s Robert Smith and Frank Black but Reed and Bowie’s mini-concert close to the end of the show was the definition of perfection.
They tore through blistering renditions of ‘Queen Bitch’ before taking on The Velvet Underground’s of ‘White Light/White Heat’ and ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ as well as Reed’s ‘Dirty Blvd’. You can see just how much fun they were having on the stage, both appearing like they were in their absolute element.
The world is a darker place without these two icons of music but this footage of these two giants coming together for this historical performance of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man‘ is something we will have forever.
Check it out, below.