On September 17th, 1987, about 100 people went to the Bluebird night club in Bloomington, Indiana, with no idea they were about to witness a truly historic moment in rock history.
Local band Ragin’ Texans was headlining that night, but it was two days before Farm Aid III at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, and John Mellencamp stopped by to stage an unannounced rehearsal show with his band.
Lou Reed was also booked for Farm Aid that year, and midway through Mellencamp’s set, he came out for an extended jam session on tunes from Reed’s solo career and years with the Velvet Underground. To top it all off, John Prine emerged from the wings to join them at the very end.
The Prine portion of the evening wasn’t captured on camera, but a never-before-seen video of Mellencamp and Reed teaming up on “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Sweet Jane,” “Rock & Roll,” and “I Love You, Suzanne” has just hit YouTube. (Thanks to Rolling Stone reader Mike Rainey for tipping us off.) The video begins with Mellencamp and his band playing hits like “Small Town” and “Paper in Fire” before Reed comes out, around the 16:00 mark, as the crowd goes absolutely insane.
Indiana University rock history professor Glenn Gass was in the crowd that night. He followed Reed into an alley after the musician’s set and told him he was teaching his students about the Velvet Underground; Gass wrote his phone number on a matchbox and invited Reed to speak to the students, never thinking it would happen.
Reed called Gass the next day and said he wanted to do it. “He was very paranoid about it,” Gass told the Indiana Daily Student in 2017. “He said he had never done anything like this before. Just was nervous, visibly shaking all the way to the classroom. He was afraid he was going to walk in and people were just going to stare at him.”
But Reed wound up enjoying the experience and stuck around for 90 minutes. “It was kind of like a dream come true when you’re a rock-history teacher,” Gass said, “to have Lou Reed come in and spend an hour and a half.”
It was also a dream come true for the lucky fans at the Bluebird the previous night, and now 33 years later, the rest of the world can finally see it for themselves.