Songs to the Siren

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Sweet Jane

Lou Reed

February 1974🇺🇸

This isn’t the first version of Sweet Jane, of course. It’s not even a typical version by Reed solo, or as part of The Velvent Underground. But it is really quite stunning. What really makes this, though, is the intro penned by Steve Hunter - and Hunter’s band, which subsequently went on to back Alice Cooper.

The video embedded above uses the audio from the Lou Reed live LP Rock ’n’ Roll Animal, in which he was backed by Hunter and Dick Wagner on guitars, Prakash John on bass, Ray Colcord on keys, and Pentti Glan on drums. As you can hear, it’s quite a band. The video in the clip looks like it comes from the same show, though it loops a short clip over the intro, until Reed joins the band on stage for the vocal.

The duelling solos of Hunter and Wagner are clearly a highlight, but everyone else is putting in a pretty decent shift too here. I guess it seems odd to talk about an iconic song in terms of a bolted-on intro that’s not really part of that song, but this is so great you can argue that it has become the definitive version. As it happens, Reed himself has been quoted as describing a very different version as has favourite - he particularly liked the take released in the 80s by Cowboy Junkies.

The song, penned by Reed of course, first appeared on the fourth Velvet Underground LP Loaded. It has, as long as I can remember, been a staple of Reed’s live shows up until his death in 2013, and he opened most shows with it.

He later played the song live with Steve Hunter, who reprised some of the lines from the Rock ’n’ Roll Animal intro, but it falls a but flat in my view.