Velvet Underground Raid the Vaults for 'Light' – Premiere

Early version of 'Beginning to See the Light' comes from 'White Light/White Heat' reissue

Velvet Underground
UMe archives
December 5, 2013 9:30 AM ET

"No one listened to it," Lou Reed said not long before he died about the Velvet Underground's singular second album, White Light/White Heat, the raw, corrosive sound of the streets that was recorded, so preposterously, at the tail end of the Summer of Love. Not many listened to it upon its initial release in early 1968, maybe, but the album has since become a true soundtrack of the electric, disaffected city. To mark its 45th anniversary – and, coincidentally, the outpouring of affection upon the death of Reed, whose public persona never seemed to crave any such thing – Universal next week is releasing a remastered, three-disc, 30-track "super deluxe" edition of White Light/White Heat. The jam-packed set features outtakes, live cuts and alternate versions, like the potent early take on "Beginning to See the Light" that premieres here. 

See Where 'White Light/White Heat' Ranks on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

That song, which actually made its debut on The Velvet Underground, the 1969 album that succeeded White Light, is less airy, more measured and garage-y on this early draft. It's a kind of holy goof on gospel tradition: despite the title, Reed was in no mood to submit to any kind of higher deity. "I wore my teeth in my hands / So I could mess the hair of the night," he sings. Well, of course he did. The song ends with the refrain that effectively summed up so much his work: "How does it feel to be loved?" he sneers, not exactly hanging on the answer.  

The 45th anniversary super deluxe edition of White Light/White Heat, with liner notes from Rolling Stone's resident VU scholar, David Fricke, will be available on Tuesday. It's "the quintessence of articulated punk," as Reed said. "And no one goes near it." But don't let that stop you.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

More Song Stories entries »