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There It Comes Now: Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” Box Set Arrives In December

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White Light - White Heat Box SetUPDATED 10/4: “No one listened to it.  But there it is, forever – the quintessence of articulate punk.  And no one goes near it.”  So commented the rather articulate Lou Reed in a statement for Rolling Stone regarding Universal’s upcoming 45th anniversary 3-CD box set of The Velvet Underground’s sophomore effort, White Light/White Heat.  Due on December 3, the new set follows last year’s 6-CD super deluxe edition of the band’s debut Velvet Underground & Nico from Universal as well as the 5-LP box The Verve/MGM Albums from Sundazed.  In addition, a 2-CD “highlights” version will be available as part of the label’s Deluxe Edition series.

The 1967 debut of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker and Nico was a rather outré release for the jazz-oriented Verve label – though let’s not forget, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were also Verve artists at the time!  The band’s name didn’t even appear on the famous “banana” album cover – just the signature of the group’s nominal producer, Andy Warhol.  “So Far Underground, You Get the Bends!” infamously proclaimed an ad in the Village Voice, but truth is, even the underground cognoscenti didn’t embrace the band immediately.  The critics weren’t much more kind, with Jazz magazine proclaiming the VU’s debut “rather tedious despite their ventures into electric viola, et. al.,” adding that “their forte is the loud whine.”

For all that, though, the dark and uncompromising The Velvet Underground & Nico anticipated the sounds of the future. Punk, glam, noise and even goth were anticipated, though the band still made at least casual nods at pop, rhythm-and-blues, jazz and garage rock. Primarily written by Reed with contributions from bandmates Cale and Maureen Tucker, the Velvets dealt with drugs, sex and violence in a frank and bold way, while Nico’s deep, odd, gothic vocals added mightily to the feeling of paranoia and unease that permeated the record. This was the sound of the harsh underbelly of New York City.

The group, sans Nico, recorded 1968’s White Light/White Heat with Tom Wilson in the producer’s chair.  The original album bore the credit “Edited and remixed under the supervision of Tom Wilson,” and he also received a producer credit for the track “Sunday Morning.”  With Wilson officially at the helm, Reed, Cale and company aimed for an even harsher sound.  Considering the relative lack of success of The Velvet Underground & Nico, the pursuit of rawness on White Light was the opposite of conventional wisdom.  (For the record, VU&N peaked at No. 171 in Billboard and No. 102 in Cash Box.  It was difficult to find for much of 1967 thanks to a legal battle over the image of onetime Warhol associate Eric Emerson in the gatefold artwork, which might have hurt its chances further.  Still, the album sold over 58,000 copies by February 14, 1969, according to an MGM royalty statement, so Lou Reed’s famous statement to Brian Eno that it sold “30,000 copies in the first five years” wasn’t quite true.)

Cale was quoted as describing White Light/White Heat as “consciously anti-beauty,” although most would argue that the Velvets found a certain kind of beauty in the darkness.  Recorded over mere days in summer 1967 and issued on January 30, 1968, White Light’s six songs are infused with the countercultural, avant-garde spirit.  “I Heard Her Call My Name” made prominent use of screeching feedback, while sex was frankly referred to in “Lady Godiva’s Operation” and the 17+-minute jam “Sister Ray.”  The title track referred to drugs, and even the most “commercial” song on the LP, “Here She Comes Now,” employed a double entendre in its title.  Reportedly Tom Wilson left the studio during the recording of “Sister Ray,” unable to tolerate the “noise.”

Though White Light/White Heat sounds like the work of one band on the same page, tensions between Reed and Cale were splintering the band, and Cale was eased out prior to 1969’s more folk-rock-leaning The Velvet Underground.  Prior to the release of 1970’s Loaded – the VU’s most pop/rock-flavored album yet – Lou Reed departed the ranks, and it was over in all but name.

What will you find on Universal’s deluxe reissue of White Light/White Heat?  Hit the jump!

White Light 2-CDStereo and mono mixes of the original album will appear on Discs One and Two, respectively.  Each version of the album will be expanded with bonus material: alternate versions of “Hey Mr. Rain,” “The Gift” and “Beginning to See the Light,” an instrumental mix of “Guess I’m Falling in Love,” original mixes of “Temptation Inside Your Heart” and “Stephanie Says,” and the original mono single versions of “White Light/White Heat” and “There She Comes Now.”  The box set will also find room for the first commercial release of the oft-circulated concert of April 30, 1967 at New York’s Gymnasium at which the group performed songs including “Run, Run, Run,” “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Sister Ray.”

Produced with the cooperation of both Lou Reed and John Cale, the 3-CD White Light/White Heat is due from Universal on December 3.  On the same day, a 2-CD version will be issued which contains Disc 1 (Stereo Mix and Bonus Tracks) and Disc 3 (Live at the Gymnasium) only.  The mono disc is exclusive to the Super Deluxe Edition.

You can order both editions at the links below!

The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Verve LP V-5046/V6-5046, 1968 – reissued Universal, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CD 1: Stereo Album plus Stereo Bonus Tracks

  1. White Light/White Heat
  2. The Gift
  3. Lady Godiva’s Operation
  4. There She Comes Now
  5. I Heard Her Call My Name
  6. Sister Ray
  7. I Heard Her Call My Name (Alternate Take)
  8. Guess I’m Falling in Love (Instrumental) (previously unreleased)
  9. Temptation Inside Your Heart (Original Mix) (previously unreleased)
  10. Stephanie Says (Original Mix)
  11. Hey Mr. Rain – Version One (previously unreleased)
  12. Hey Mr. Rain – Version Two (previously unreleased)
  13. Beginning to See the Light (Early Version) (previously unreleased)

CD 2: Mono Album plus Mono Bonus Tracks

  1. White Light/White Heat
  2. The Gift
  3. Lady Godiva’s Operation
  4. There She Comes Now
  5. I Heard Her Call My Name
  6. Sister Ray
  7. White Light/White Heat (Mono Single Mix) (Verve single VK-10560, 1967)
  8. There She Comes Now (Mono Single Mix) (Verve single VK-10560, 1967)
  9. The Gift (Vocal Version) (previously unreleased)
  10. The Gift (Instrumental Version) (previously unreleased)

CD 3: Live at the Gymnasium – April 30, 1967

  1. Booker T.
  2. I’m Not a Young Man Anymore
  3. Guess I’m Falling in Love
  4. I’m Waiting for the Man
  5. Run Run Run
  6. Sister Ray
  7. The Gift

All tracks on CD 3 are previously unreleased.

The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat: 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Verve LP V-5046/V6-5046, 1968 – reissued Universal, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  • This 2-CD edition contains CDs 1 (Stereo Mix and Bonus Tracks) and 3 (Live at the Gymnasium), above, in digipak packaging.

Written by Joe Marchese

October 2, 2013 at 10:20

9 Responses

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  1. Sweet, I thought this might be the mono and stereo versions of the album only, with some bonus live stuff, so I’m really happy to hear about the outtakes.


    October 2, 2013 at 11:08

  2. They posted the complete tracklist, basically stereo and mono versions plus the Gymnasium 1967 show


    October 2, 2013 at 12:24

    • Are they trying to make sure that nobody buys this version of the album either by charging so much for it?


      October 2, 2013 at 15:37

      • Agree w/Chris. At that price point, I’ll pass.


        October 2, 2013 at 20:44

  3. I’ve just done a little wee I’m so excited.


    October 2, 2013 at 17:42

  4. The price will likely come down by the release date. Whether it’s down by enough to justify the purchase will be left to the individual. I got the box set for the first album, but only because I had an Amazon gift certificate. It’s a great box, but the purchase decision would’ve been a lot harder if I had been spending my OWN money! This seems to offer even less value than that set. Oh well. Maybe I can pray to the holiday gods for another gift certificate . . . .

    Chief Brody

    October 3, 2013 at 03:53

  5. The review doesn’t seem to mention the not-so-super-deluxe-edition (without the live set) which is currently priced ad about $30 – link.


    October 4, 2013 at 06:13

  6. I stand corrected, the $30 set INCLUDES the live set and leaves out the mono version. So it seems the mono mix alone is worth about 57 buck 😉


    October 4, 2013 at 06:22

  7. actually, 67 bucks 😉


    October 4, 2013 at 06:24

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