By Colin Small
When The Beatles broke up, time stopped for a lot of people. It was a tragedy of historical significance, an event that fans would brood over for decades, spreading blame, pain, and disappointment over more than a few families and careers. This was a band about personalities, about overt innovation, about big talent. People saw direction in The Beatles and when they decided to part ways, rock music lost its point, four men at the front of the pack, hacking their way into unexplored terrain and waving everyone behind to follow. It didn’t matter if they didn’t see themselves as leaders, that was the narrative into which they were talked and written.
Not nearly as many people knew about the Velvet Underground when Lou Reed, in 1970, finally decided to leave the band as its last original member. Despite the band’s now enormous reputation as a sort of "alternative Beatles," the mother from which everything punk, new wave, and indie was birthed, not many people look at the band’s slow dissolution over the course of three years with that much regret. This wasn’t a band with lofty goals, so it didn’t seem like they left anything unaccomplished.
The Velvet Underground was a band about experimentation, exploring the pleasurable possibilities and emotional depths of rock music. Their creative style was free form and intuitive. Because of this, any listener who has run their course through the four official albums released by the band between 1967 and 1970 has a wealth of unreleased rarities to explore. Live bootlegs, demos, outtakes, and unfinished studio recordings abound, a few of which have become as cherished as some of the band’s most iconic official releases. If you're looking to go deeper into some of the Velvet Underground's less public explorations, here's a collection of rarities to get started with.