Recording: Live Bootleg, The Matrix, San Francisco, November 1969
When the original Velvet Underground broke up in 1970, they were essentially forgotten by all but the most devoted fans. Their albums went out of print and mainstream rock music moved towards the stadium. At the urging of famous rock critic and A&R Paul Nelson, in 1974 Mercury Records released a compilation of live recordings brought together by Nelson himself entitled 1969: The Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed. At the time, Lou Reed was more recognizable as a solo artist than a member of the original band. This live double album served as an introductory listening experience for a set of new fans who were otherwise unable to acquire their original albums. Thus began the band’s resurgence as an influence on punk and new wave music that culminated in an intense new popularity and recognition in the late 1970s.
The album itself is an odd representation of the band if it is viewed through their four original albums. John Cale had already left the band and thus there was no viola, many of the songs performed are vastly extended, and a few of the songs were previously unreleased by the band itself. But it’s a perfect distillation of the band’s casual essence and love of music and thus as-of-yet unheard songs, many of which, like "Ocean," are experimentally unstructured and not friendly to radio play, shine just as much as their more singular mainstays.