As the story goes, Brigid Polk was a longtime friend of the band and one night decided to bring a cassette recorder with her to record their set. This is the result. It's lo-fi, it's mono, but it still sounds like a decent bootleg (even though it is an official release). By the time this was released, Lou Reed had left the band and Velvet Underground was nothing like they were in the days of the peeling banana and locking yourself in a box as a gift. A Deluxe Edition was released by Rhino a few years ago, but this is the original album on Cotillion/Atlantic, as is.
“Good evening, we’re called the Velvet Underground. You’re allowed to dance, in case you didn’t know, and…uh, that’s about it. This is called ‘Waiting for the Man,’ a tender folk song from the early ’50s about love between man and subway, and I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it.” The preceding words were selected by Lou Reed as his opening salvo when the Velvet Underground took the stage of Max’s Kansas City in New York City on August 23, 1970… and, in turn, they were the words that the band’s fans heard within seconds of putting on Side One of the Velvet Underground’s first live album, Live at Max’s Kansas City, which was released 42 years ago today.
The Velvet Underground are arguably the most important American band of the second half of the '60s, but few seemed to think so at the time. The Velvets flew under the radar of public recognition through most of their career, and no one bothered to professionally record their live shows between 1966 and 1970…
Few rock groups can claim to have broken so much new territory, and maintain such consistent brilliance on record, as the Velvet Underground during their brief lifespan. It was the group's lot to be ahead of, or at least out of step with, their time. The mid- to late '60s was an era of explosive growth and experimentation in rock, but the Velvets' innovations which blended the energy of rock with the sonic adventurism of the avant-garde, and introduced a new degree of social realism and sexual kinkiness into rock lyrics were too abrasive for the mainstream to handle.