Happy 2013 you lovely, smart Dangerous Minds readers!
To kick off the new year right, we’ve got another great music give-away thanks to the fine folks at the Universal Music Group (Congrats to Richard Swanson who won the Frank Zappa CDs last month).
This time, one lucky winner, chosen at random, will receive UMe’s new 2 CD deluxe release of The Velvet Underground & Nico and a vinyl copy of the legendary Scepter sessions acetate. Disc one features a new (and quite good sounding) remastering of this classic album but it’s what’s on disc 2 (and the LP) that’s extra special. Since I have already ranted and raved about the “45th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition” box set that this more compact set was carved out of last month, I’ll stick with what I wrote earlier:
The selling points of this set have little to do with the album as we know it, however, and everything to do with it being the first official release of the now legendary Scepter Studios sessions as discovered on the “Norman Dolph acetate” found at the Sixth Ave Flea market in New York in 2002.
The acetate (a glass test record) was cut of the original five day VU recording sessions at the near derelict studios belonging to the Scepter Records label in 1966. These sessions were paid for by a Columbia Records sales executive named Norman Dolph (who I’ve met—we both collect Paul Laffoley’s art—he’s a fascinating guy) and Andy Warhol. As heard on disc four of this new box set—in the cleanest version you’ll ever hear—the Scepter Studios sessions is a true revelation—white light, white heat, even!—for any aficionado of the Velvet Underground, even the most jaded ones, like me.
It’s a show stopper. Some reviewers call the differences minor, but I don’t think so…
Truly, I’d have never thought that I could get into this album again with fresh ears, but that really has happened, via the Scepter sessions. I’ve been listening to it obsessively for about a week and just digging the fuck out of it.
Five tracks are the same, although there are different mixes, three entirely different takes and several vocal changes. Since it’s likely that when these same multi-tracked tapes were taken back into the studio at TTG in Los Angeles for finishing, the original performances were probably recorded over: Lou Reed’s falsetto backing vocals on “Femme Fatale” for instance (in the version we know he sings low and flat). “Heroin” features a far more frantic, crazed viola from Cale and even starts off with a much different opening line, giving new meaning to the lyrics (John Cale wrote of being infuriated at the change in his autobiography, now we can hear what he was so pissed off about.) “European Son” is two minutes longer and although the take is different enough from the final version known on the album, it’s pretty amazing to hear just how well-rehearsed that ear-splitting cacophony actually was! That this was “lost” for so many years, and now can be heard like this, well, it’s pretty extraordinary, it really is.
You can win a free copy of the deluxe 2 CD set of The Velvet Underground & Nico, as well as a limited edition LP version of the Sceptor sessions that was pressed on vinyl especially for Record Store Day in 2012.
To enter, it’s simple, all you have to do is “like” The Velvet Underground’s Facebook page and subscribe to the Dangerous Minds daily newsletter (see widget at the top of this page). Once you’ve done both, please leave a comment below telling us why you deserve to win. The winner will be notified on Wednesday, January 9th.
Incidentally, there’s an interesting online marketing tool that UMe came up with to sell this album that will be of interest to Velvet Underground fans and downtown New Yorkers both past and present: An interactive map of significant addresses in the history of the band and what they are today. For instance, The Dom nightclub, where Warhol’s EPI happenings occurred in 1967, located at 23 St. Marks Place—later called Cheetah and for a long time the home of NA and AA meetings—has now been divided up between a Sock Man store, a Chipotle and a gourmet cheese shop (at least that’s what was there when I was last in NYC).
Locations on the Lower East Side where Lou and John used to score heroin are probably selling artisanal mayonnaise now…
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
It’s Just Too Much: Holy grail of Velvet Underground recordings released as part of new box set
Thank you Adam Starr!