Lou Reed :: Rock ‘N Roll Animal (Live 1973)


For an audience, artists reinterpreting their own catalog, in a live setting, can be both exciting, and at times, an exercise in frustration. This trend of course also lends itself to the companion “live” album as well. One of the first instances of this I consciously remember was picking up Bob Dylan’s 1974 live album with the Band, Before The Flood. A student of Dylan’s studio jams I was immediately bummed and confused as to why the bard would purposely reinvent some of his best work. I wasn’t feeling it. Not surprisingly this turned out to be an initial knee-jerk reaction as I later came to love Dylan’s ever-changing reinterpretations of his old “standards.”

To a lesser extent Lou Reed’s 1973 live document, Rock ‘N Roll Animal, had a similar effect when I first encountered it. In essence, “what were these bastardized versions of VU classics?” Similar to the above Dyaln instance, I soon came to appreciate the ’73 reinterpretations. They swung with attitude, glitter and swagger — glammed up for the, then, new decade(nce) of the ’70s.

In the years since I have read that, upon its release, both critics and fans alike were wondering the same thing about these Velvets redux. Now hailed in many circles as a “classic” live album, Rock ‘N Roll Animal is, if anything, a signifier of revisionist history. But really, Lou is — if not always great — at least interesting in any incarnation. Turn these up loud.

In the comments: In a live setting do you prefer an artist perform their material straight up, or reinterpret it, changing the lyrics, the tempo, the key the song is in, etc?

MP3: Lou Reed :: White Light White Heat
MP3: Lou Reed :: Intro/Sweet Jane
Amazon: Lou Reed – Rock ‘N Roll Animal

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Lou Reed – Interview, Australian Television – 1974

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10 thoughts on “Lou Reed :: Rock ‘N Roll Animal (Live 1973)

  1. it’s always nice seeing the band being able to reproduce certain arrangements live, but in general, “live” is really the time for experimentation and that gives something special for fans to bring back with them.

    having said that, these lou reed reinterpretations, while certainly relevant for the glam era, have somehow lost the original contexts of the songs. ‘white light/white heat” is almost unrecognizable, and seems a little meaningless without the bleeding white noise of the original.

  2. i’m torn between wanting to sing along and with wanting to hear my favorite bands let loose into new territory on familiar tunes. overall, i’d rather a band be excited to play fresh music as opposed to rehashed songs they’ve played a million times exactly the same way. that isn’t very fun- for band or audience.

  3. Its good when bands can change it up live. If ya wanna hear thee exact same note for note deal, why not save the dough and stay home and listen to the record. Sure as the times change and the live versions, for good or ill, do with them. Sometimes it isn’t what one wants to hear, but it could be interesting. Who really wants to see a band do a kareoke type gig anyway?

  4. perhaps this is a cop-out but i like a happy medium between the two. the national are a nice example of changing things but still keeping the song in tact. fugazi were great at it as well.. on the other hand, changing it up completely can be cool, will oldham is someone i think pulls it off well.

  5. If the music is more exciting when the audience can participate, then straight up is better, like Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers. If the music is more exciting for it’s showmanship and musical interest, then reinterpretation and improv is better, like The White Stripes. My 2 cents, anyway.


  6. I was 13 when RnR Animal came out, so these versions WERE the originals to me. When I went back to the VU recordings, I actually did not get them at all at the time. Back to the question – absolutely give me someone that is willing to take a chance on a re-arrangement over a note-for-note reproduction. Even if it doesn’t work. One reason a Lou Reed show is always memorable – he tends to mess with something in the set. And Rambling Canuck is right – the Wagner/Hunter work in the intro is stunning.

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