Now Available: The Velvet Underground, Live at Max's Kansas City

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Now Available: The Velvet Underground, Live at Max's Kansas City

If you read yesterday's post about our Start Your Ear Off Right campaign, then you already know that we've just reissued the Velvet Underground's classic Live at Max's Kansas City on CD as well as on a 2-LP set 180-gram vinyl, newly remastered for your listening enjoyment. What you may not know, however, is the origin story behind the album.

Picture it: August 23, 1970, New York City. The Velvet Underground, now on Atlantic Records, are nearing the end of a nine-week engagement at the nightclub known as Max's Kansas City, one that kicked off on June 24 and is set to wrap up on August 28. They've been playing songs from their career up to that point, of course, but they've also been throwing in a fair amount of numbers from their yet-to-be-released album Loaded.

On this particular night, Brigid Polk - an associate of the V.U.'s former manager, Andy Warhol - decides to capture the evening's performance on her portable cassette recorder. (Holding the microphone: future “People Who Died” singer Jim Carroll.) Little does Polk or anyone else present at the show realize that they're witnessing Reed's final show with the band for the foreseeable future. After the performance, Reed leaves the Velvet Underground and won't return to their ranks until he, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker decide to reform the band in the final days of 1992.

As for Live at Max's Kansas City, it earned official release from Atlantic Records after Danny Fields, who would later discover the Ramones but was then working in Atlantic's A&R department, passed the tapes to his bosses, who subsequently decided to cut their V.U. losses and release it as the band's second album for the label. When it first came out, it was as a single album, with songs re-sequenced and edited by Reed and producer Geoff Haslam. In 2004, however, it was reissued as a deluxe edition, this time offering the entire concert - both sets, which amounted to a total of 17 songs - and with the songs in the order that they were originally performed.

So now you know the story behind Live at Max's Kansas City. You may now feel free to go purchase a copy of the newly-remastered album. Enjoy!