“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.
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.