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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Early Pink Floyd Velvet Underground Connection?

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
On the amazing Laughing Madcaps Group (join the group by clicking the name), Ken Sutera Jr. thought that Pink Floyd's Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk sounds a lot like the Velvet Underground's European Son. He asked if the 'Floyd might have been exposed early Velvet Underground.

Ken Sutera Jr. said:

Is it just me or are stethoscope and the VU's European son very similar pieces of music? even a lot of the guitar style.? think he (Syd) may've been exposed to some early velvets stuff by way of Kate Heliczer but I'm not too sure.. and I know it's (TUTSAW) credited as a Waters composition. Just wondered if anyone knew if there was anythin in it? The treble on the guitar tone is very similar as well though. Just on that tune mind. Syd seemed to favour echo-drenched reverb on a lot of his PF stuff, but he could do (Lucifer Sam's verses come to mind) tougher more punchy phrasing also.

It turns out that Joe Boyd had a copy of the Scepter Studios demos that he brought over to England and was shopping around. The Scepter Studios demos (basically) contained the Banana LP tracks in earlier form. An acetate of these tracks (bought at a garage sale) recently went for big money and is now included in the latest VU box set. So many box sets... But wait, the VU's motto was that they wanted to leave audiences wanting LESS rather than more. But that isn't possible! Lou farting in the bathtub in 1966? Bring it on!

But annnnnnnnnyway, this Scepter Studios tape made a big splash over in England when Joe Boyd began playing it around. It was subsequently stolen and became a "hush-hush" affair for decades.

Richie Unterberger interviewed Mick Farren, of the Deviants, and he (Mick) is quoted below:

Joe Boyd [producer of Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, and numerous other late-'60s bands] brought over some tapes of the Velvet Underground, which we stole off him, and somebody immediately stole off us. That was the most interesting thing that seemed to be a similar kind of synthesis, coming from the same sort of background. [The tapes] were pre-first album (ED: i.e. predating the Velvets' famed "Banana" LP).. I was almost beginning to think I'd dreamed them. Everybody denied all knowledge of them. We performed a song called "Prominent Men" for a while that we took off those tapes. And suddenly they resurfaced. They're the very first tapes on the Velvet Underground box set. [The tape] was ["Prominent Men"], three or four versions of "Venus In Furs," the very strange acoustic version of "Waiting For The Man," "Prominent Men," "All Tomorrow's Parties."

[We were] a bunch of guys who'd really come out of the sort of British North London art school R&B band scene. Like the Pretty Things; that was really our heritage. We were trying to like push it in simultaneously a more demented and more intelligent direction. 'Cause we couldn't really be spending our time recycling old Jimmy Reed tunes. So we were looking for something to do. I think basically Lou and Cale got in there first. It was very much a sort of parallel development, London and New York. That's where we felt things were happening the most.

You know, we were pretty incompetent at the start. We were pretty incompetent at the end. But more money came in. The amplifiers got bigger. We all got ourselves fierce amphetamine habits, and at that point, kind of ear-bleeding noise took over for a while. Plus we were also kind of listening to Zappa, which definitely affected the way we made the first album.

In the book, Dark Globe, it says that a woman named - Kate Heliczer brought a Velvet Underground "demo tape" to Hoppy Hopkins' flat and they would often listen to it. Kate Heliczar was a Warhol "Factory" person and acted in several of Andy's films. Undoubtedly, this is a different tape than the Boyd tape described by Mick Farren.

David Bowie covered "I'm Waiting for the Man" as early as 1967, which turns out to be before the first VU lp even came out in the United States. These Velvet Underground tapes obviously got around. David Bowie has said, "The nature of [Reed’s] lyric writing had been hitherto unknown in rock...he supplied us with the street and the landscape, and we peopled it."

So, yes it is obvious that the early Pink Floyd heard one (or both) of these Velvet Underground tapes making the rounds in England in 1966, early 1967. It is also entirely possible that Roger Waters borrowed something from European Son for his song.

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