The Yardbirds may have been the first band to ever cover The Velvet Underground
Jimmy Page knew a good thing when he saw it. When he saw the Velvet Underground he knew their potential to change the face of music more than most music critics. He played 12 string on Nico’s ‘I’m Not Sayin’ and clearly caught wind of VU before us all. In 1966, he made sure when they were performing in Paris that they covered one of the band’s most iconic songs, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’.
This is, as it claims on the video, one of the earliest if not the earliest cover of the Velvet Underground ever and it’s not a bad endorsement from a band which not only included Jimmy Page on bass but childhood friend Jeff Beck on lead guitar. The rumour goes that The Yardbirds were making their way across the US when they were invited to Andy Warhol’s famous Factory and discovered The Velvet Underground and their plethora of alt-pop gems.
The Yardbirds, apparently a somewhat shy bunch, elected Jimmy Page as the man to ask Lou Reed for chords and lyrics to his now-iconic anthem of the disenfranchised junky. He agreed and the band would soon add it into their live set.
“We heard it and thought, ‘This is quite a good song, isn’t it?'” Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty told Ugly Things magazine years later. “We probably did it because we were low on ideas and were looking around for material. We played it with the Jimmy [Page] lineup.” The bassist Chris Dejra added in the same interview “We did that very occasionally, when odd bits of material by other artists showed up in our set. That actually might have been Jimmy who wanted to do it. Good call on his part.”
Yes, it most certainly was a good idea. The clip below shows the band performing in 1966 in Paris, with the sound from a 1968 show at Shrine Hall Exposition in Los Angeles on May 31, 1968 – and shows off the not only the band’s talent but their admiration for Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.
Watch below as The Yardbirds perform The Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’