Lot 112
  • 112

The Velvet Underground — Lou Reed

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Set of typescript lyrics, with autograph changes by Lou Reed and Donald Lyons, of four songs written by Reed ca. 1964/1965 and recorded by The Velvet Underground and Nico. Including the earliest known iteration of The Velvet Underground’s groundbreaking ode to addiction, “Heroin."
  • paper, ink
1. Reed, Lou. “Heroin”. Annotated typescript. ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Lyrics match earliest extant demo of the song as recorded by the band in their Ludlow Street loft in July 1965, a recording released by Polydor Records in 1995 on The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly & See boxset. Typescript contains significant changes, in Reed’s hand, to the last verse.

The lyrics, as typed, read as follows:

"I don’t really care no more/bout the Jims-Jims in this town/and the animals making sounds/people selling people pound by pound/and the politicians and the clowns/and the do gooders with their frowns"

This has been crossed out, erased and changed to a lyric closer, though still divergent, from the final version of the song as it appears on the Velvet’s debut LP The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967, Verve). The inclusion here of the line “and the do-gooders with their frowns” would ultimately be changed to “and all the dead bodies piled up in mounds”:

2. Reed, Lou. “Heroin”. Carbon typescript ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Carbon of the above with Reed’s changes re-written at the bottom of the page by Donald Lyons.

3. Reed, Lou. “Heroin”. Typescript II ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Second, retyped, typescript of lyrics with Reed’s changes re-written at the bottom of the page by Donald Lyons.

4. Reed, Lou. “Black Angel’s Death Song”. Typescript ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Lyric contains variations and additional verses from those appearing on both the Norman Dolph acetate, the earliest extant version of this song, recorded April 21 – 25, 1966 at Specter Sound Studios, New York and from the final version recorded May 1966, T.T.G Studios in Hollywood, CA and November 1966 at Mayfair Studios, New York, NY:
"With subways for horses/No candles for light/the races did fight/In a street/In the east/Come to choose/Choose again"
A compositional note, an homage to composer LaMonte Young who John Cale performed with in The Theater of Eternal Music from 1964 – 66, appears, in type, at the bottom of the page:

"the myriad choices of his fate. . . set themselves to be repeated indefinitely eventually to be drowned and/or assimilated by the wavering line dependent on the musician"
5. Reed, Lou. “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Typescript with single annotation in Lyons hand. Written by Lou Reed and demoed by the band, the song was ultimately recorded by Nico for her 1967 debut LP Chelsea Girl (1967, Verve). Lyrics are identical to the acoustic demo version of the song as recorded by the band in their Ludlow Street loft in July 1965, first released by Polydor in 1995 on the boxset The Velvet Underground: Peel Slowly and See. Contains one verse excised from the final Chelsea Girl recording:

"Purple is to yellow/As sunlight is to rain/Happiness in death you’ll find/Loveliness in pain"

6. Reed, Lou. “Venus In Furs” ca. 1965. 1 leaf, 1 page. Typescript. Verse and chorus arrangement differs from both the acetate version recorded by Norman Dolph in April 1966 and the version which appears on the band’s debut LP The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967). The verse/chorus structure here matches that of the July 1965 acoustic demo recorded by the band in their Ludlow Street loft.


The estate of film critic Donald Lyons (1938 – 2011), a Factory regular in the mid-1960s and participant in the Andy Warhol produced multi-media event Uptight featuring The Velvet Underground. The precursor to Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable, Uptight had its premiere February 8 – 13, 1966 at the Filmmaker’s Cinematheque at 125th West 41st Street in New York City.

Lyons is an advertised player on the Uptight handbill and can be seen dancing with Edie Sedgwick at The Factory during the Velvet Underground’s performance on WNET-NY on February 7, 1966. It was during this program that Warhol famously announced he was “sponsoring a new band, The Velvet Underground”.

Danny Fields, another Factory regular and co-executor of the Lyons Estate, believes Lyons came into possession of these pages while helping Reed copyright his lyrics in the months leading up to The Velvet Underground’s signing with Verve Records. A few years later, Lyons would have a similar hand in copyrighting the songs of Jonathan Richman and Andy Paley, evidence of which can be found in the Donald Lyons Archive at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


Prior to the discovery of these pages, the earliest known example of original Velvet Underground lyrics were the handwritten sheet music manuscripts for “Heroin”, “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”, “Black Angel’s Death Song”, “Little Sister”, “Venus In Furs”, “I’m Waiting For The Man” and “There She Goes Again”, reproduced in The Velvet Underground: New York Art (ed. Johan Kugelberg, Rizzoli, 2007). Written out by Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison after their debut LP was recorded, the lyrics on those sheets are identical to the lyrics as they appear on the record and are not working drafts.

Catalogue Note

An essential archive of the most influential underground band of all time

The 1967 debut album of the Velvet Underground has been called "the most prophetic of all time" by Rolling Stone and it had a profound impact on the what was possible both lyrically and musically in Rock. The album only sold 30,000 copies in its first five years, but as Brian Eno famously remarked "Everyone who bought a copy started a band!"

The present typescripts are the only known working drafts of these seminal songs.