Recording: Demo, Peel Slowly and See, July 1965
Like any angsty 22-year-old, Lou Reed had a Bob Dylan phase in the mid-sixties. In fact, "I’m Waiting For The Man," possibly the the Velvet Underground's most well known and representative tune, began as an acoustic Bob-Dylan-folk tribute complete with Reed’s heavily affected vocal imitation of the singer’s famous inflection. In that same set of demos proceeding the recording of The Velvet Underground and Nico is "Prominent Men" another Dylan inspired ramble.
What’s interesting is the marked similarities and contrasts between the two songwriters. Reed and company mimic Dylan in their harmonic layering, their figurative storytelling, and even the chord structures of the band’s early songs, but Reed seems much more interested in exploring his own abstract imagery than actually exploring the social criticism of the song’s Dylan-inspired concept. In some sense, "Prominent Men" is a song of discovery, in which Reed realizes his proclivity toward sonic—rather than social—subversion.