The Velvet Underground – Live MCMXCIII

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 9)

I have some kind of Roman numeral innumeracy. I cannot for the life of my figure them out – it’s a stupid system, really, and there is no reason to learn it. I think the MCMXCIII must be 1993? The M is 1,000; the C before the M makes 900, the X before the C is how you show 90, and the III are 3. That’s the best I can do. Hardly important here, but whatever. Nothing is important.

What I Think of This Album

There are a lot of good reasons to own this, the undeniable VU swan song, but I can accept that some people might not want to. First, I think this is the only live document with Cale and his essential viola work. Second, you get to hear the Nico- and Yule-sung songs sung by Reed and Cale instead. Third, there are special treats, like a version of “Guess I’m Falling In Love” with lyrics and a brand new song (“Coyote”), as well as a live version of personal favorite “Black Angel’s Death Song.” Fourth, it’s a moving document of the band finally getting its due, particularly in light of Sterling Morrison’s death a few years later. Fifth, though Reed and Cale fell out (again) before a North American tour could come together, the performance and the liner notes suggest a real warmth and affection between the four.

But the band is clearly past its prime (Reed’s vocals are pretty shaky) and no one would consider this to be anything but a nice bit of nostalgia; the sound, also, is a major letdown. I believe Luna was the opening act for these European shows. Reed thanks Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes in the liner notes. Reed guitarist Mike Rathke produced the live album and Roger Moutenot (Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, Beulah) was on hand for mixing and engineering. I personally think Yule should have been invited (Morrison lobbied for it; Reed and Cale said no) to participate, and I also think he should have been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (which I despise) with the rest of the band.

Sterling Morrison died in 1995. Nico passed in 1988. Reed left us in 2013.

The Best Thing About This Album

The whole thing is a warm blanket of heroin, bleakness, and dirty sex.

Release Date

October, 1993

The Cover Art

Not into it. Seems lazy and pandering.

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