Recording: Live Bootleg, The Boston Tea Party, Boston, 1969
The song "Sister Ray," the famous conclusion to White Light/White Heat, is eighteen minutes of roaring, distorted jamming that, at least in legend, made an engineer storm out of the studio in a huff, was also one of the band’s favorite live staples. The song would often stretch to thirty minutes or more, allowing the band to explore widely various interpretations of its flexible riff and moody, lurid storyline, often in ways far less heavy and compressed than their corrosive studio rendition. Performances range from theatrical to bluesy to proto-punk.
This version of "Sister Ray," however, performed at one of their favorite venues, Boston’s The Boston Tea Party, may be more loosely constructed than the original, but it runs neck and neck in volume. While the original uses noise to lend weight to the song’s melody, this time the band makes noise just for the love of noise itself. This is a performance that really gets at part of what made them such a great band, because even in their indulgent jamming, even when Reed is simply letting his guitar roar for four minutes at a time, you can hear how complex his love of the sound is. They were the first to make something this noisy sound good only because they knew what good noise sounded like.