THE VELVET UNDERGROUND - Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes
In the late '60s, I was studying law at Washington University in St. Louis. I was a rock & roll fan, playing guitar since 1958 and in various groups since 1961. In 1968, I became a rabid Velvet Underground fan and spent countless hours on headphones learning from them. There were a lot of great things going on from the mid- to late '60s, but my greatest influences were The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Jeff Beck's work with The Yardbirds and The Velvet Underground. So when they came to play a concert at Washington University on May 11, 1969 (sharing the bill with Taj Mahal), I was ready! I had just bought my first cassette recorder, a Sony with a hand-held microphone. Despite a lousy P.A. system and a very echoey basketball gym, the concert was great, the high point being the performance of 'Sister Ray' included in this set.
Later that year, I moved to San Francisco, staying there two years before ultimately moving to New York City. In early November, The Velvet Underground came to San Francisco and stayed for nearly a month. They started out with three nights at The Family Dog, a large Fillmore-type space. A number of hippies brought tambourines and harmonicas to "do their thing" with the group. But the sound was great for recording - the band was able to play really loud.
After that, they played The Matrix,, a fairly small club, for several weeks, and I taped most of those performances. In the beginning, there weren't many people in the audience. There were a few nights when they started the first set with only four or five people in the club! Under those circumstances, the group couldn't help but notice me and they were very friendly, putting me on the guest list every night and inviting me to hang out with them in the dressing room between sets. They appreciated the fact that I was so serious about recording them, and Lou Reed would occasionally "warn" me when they were going to do something special, like 'Black Angel's Death Song'. Sometimes, backstage, they'd ask me to play back a particular song theyıd done in the previous set.
They also invited me to watch their occasional rehearsals at the club. They'd work on arrangements for new songs, such as 'Ride Into The Sun' and 'New Age'. They got along quite well - there wasn't the slightest hint of whatever problems they would experience recording Loaded a few months later.
I got the opportunity to spend quite a few hours talking with Lou Reed about music. We'd sometimes go to this hot dog place across the street from the club (I think it was called Coney Island Franks) and talk about how incredible it was in 1955 to be a kid and first discover rock & roll - doo wop, rockabilly, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, etc. Regarding contemporary stuff, Lou was especially fond of the Stones. As for guitarists, he was very enthusiastic about a Byrds concert he'd seen at the Village Gate in 1966, where McGuinn took an incredible extended solo on 'Eight Miles High'. And he was rightfully quite proud of his own guitar soloing on songs like 'I Heard Her Call My Name' but was also resigned to the fact that most people weren't ready for it yet. Anyway, the VU gradually built up an enthusiastic following at The Matrix and by the time they left, the place was always packed.
After they left San Francisco, I spent months constantly listening to the cassettes I'd made. But the technology then was relatively primitive - it wasn't uncommon for cassettes to jam in the machine and get "eaten". So I borrowed a 7-inch reel-to-reel Sony machine and copied about four hours of what I considered to be the best performances. I'm glad I did it because the original cassettes became quite worn, damaged and ultimately misplaced. I got a lot of pleasure and inspiration from these performances. As a guitar player, they were an important element in shaping what musical direction I wanted to take.
"In the early 80s, I finally got the chance to play guitar with Lou Reed, an association that lasted nearly four years. Some great things came out of it, and I'm especially proud of the album The Blue Mask."
I'd like to thank my partner in this project, Michael Carlucci of Subterranean Records. Like me, he's a big Velvet Underground fan, and he spent a lot of energy pushing me to dig out these tapes and to take the first steps in trying to get them released. I'd also like to thank Bill Levenson for his enthusiasm and persistence in getting this stuff out in the best possible form. And, of course, the Velvet Underground - for contributing so much to the world of music and for their generosity to a crazed fan a long time ago.
Listening to this stuff all these years later, I'm ultimately the same fan I was in 1969.
-- Robert Quine
Robert Quine (born Dec. 30, 1942; Akron, Ohio) first achieved recognition for his guitar work as a founding member of Richard Hell & the Voidoids, one of the New York "punk" scene groups of the late 70s. From 1981 until 1985, he recorded and toured extensively with Lou Reed. Since then, he has recorded with numerous artists including Brian Eno, John Zorn, Lloyd Cole, Matthew Sweet, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull.