If there’s anything about the Velvet Underground a serious lamen would know it is that they are almost terminally underrated, especially during their short-lived career. Lou Reed, John Cale, Mo Tucker, Sterling Morrison and later Doug Yule should have been the biggest band in the country in 1969 when they arrived in Boston.
Such is their constant influence on alt-rock that the idea the group were under-appreciated is a stifling one. Especially, it has to be said, when you find rarely heard bootlegs like this one below which captures the band in their second home of Boston.
The group may well be New York City royalty but the only other city in which the Velvet Underground were rightly revered was in Beantown. It meant that the Boston Tea Party was the perfect place for a candid live bootleg.
On January 10th, 1969, the band took to the stage and looked out across a crowd of misfits and mischief-makers. One notable attendee of the event was none other than soon-to-be Modern Lover, Jonathan Richman.
He said of the audience: “[T]he crowd was FUN! Wall-to-wall hippies, bikers, Harvard students, Northeastern students, fashion models, professors, drug dealers, art teachers, groupies, MIT students, photographers, local thugs, local disc jockeys, skinny-bohemian-artist girls, visiting dignitaries from the New York art scene, and the royalty of the Boston music set — the local singers and guitar-players in their mod suits strolling around with their beautiful girlfriends.”
Richman later said of the iconic club gig: “Sometimes you just plain couldn’t figure out where on the stage those strange sounds and harmonics were coming from, because of the eerie calm with which they played and improvised in front of you, and because every time they’d come to town they’d introduce at least one new song that would, for better or worse, sound like nothing else that had gone before in rock music.”
The bootleg below captures those dizzying moments in perfect audio. The recording was later turned into a live release but can still be enjoyed on YouTube without the delicate mastering.
It leaves you reeling, as the band motor through ‘Run Run Run,’ ‘What Goes On,’ ‘Heroin’ and so many more, with Moe Tucker’s drumming at its high point. In fact, it’s arguably the band’s finest live performance as the Velvet Underground prove they were a force to be reckoned with on the East Coast.
Listen to the iconic bootleg of Velvet Underground at the Boston Tea Party back in 1969 and hear the band at their peak.