This weekend in 1970, The Velvet Underground played their final show. At least, their final show before Lou Reed departed. Although it’s technically true that the group carried on for a bit without him — even releasing the 1973 album Squeeze — it’s universally accepted that the post-Lou chapter of the band simply does not count.
The final show was the culmination of a 9-week summer residency at the famed Max’s Kansas City, in New York’s Union Square. During the residency they performed two sets a night, with Reed’s final night (the rest of the guys would play out the remaining 5 nights without him) being recorded by someone named Brigid Polk, an assistant to Andy Warhol.
The sound quality is remarkably good for a recording from the crowd, and is a must listen for Velvets fans as well as those interested in hearing a slice of the early 70s Lower Manhattan music scene; it captures the spirit of pre-punk era New York.
The tapes ended up in the hands of the band’s label, Atlantic Records, which released The Velvet Underground Live at Max’s Kansas City on May 30, 1972. The single album pulls songs from both of the nights’ sets and re-sequences them. The 2004 re-issue is a double album featuring each set in their entirety (and in order).
Regardless of which release you listen to, the following is the opening track. For visual purposes, this studio recording must stand-in as there is no video of the final Max’s performance has yet to be found:
Two quick footnotes:
-Everyone is aware of Lou Reed’s solo career following his split with the band. Immediately following his departure, though, he went back to live with his parents on Long Island and worked for a year or so as a typist at his father’s tax accounting firm, earning $40 a week. That part of his career…not exactly a walk on the wild side.
-On the live recording, the voice you hear between songs commenting and ordering drinks belongs to author/musician Jim Carroll (he’s best known for either the 1980 song “People Who Died” or the Leonardo DiCaprio film based upon his life, “The Basketball Diaries”).
Just in case you want to at listen to that final performance, here are Sides A and B of the original live album: