Listen: Lou Reed’s earliest known recording of The Velvet Underground’s Heroin

The track will appear on the upcoming archival Reed collection Words & Music, May 1965 due this August.

A demo of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground classic Heroin has been released.

Thought to be the song’s earliest recording, the track will appear on the upcoming archival Reed collection Words & Music, May 1965, that is set to be released on 26 August via reissue label Light in the Attic.

This version of Heroin was put to tape by Reed in May 1965, nearly two years before its release on The Velvet Underground’s landmark debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. It is also two months older than a previously earliest known Heroin demo recorded with bandmates John Cale and Sterling Morrison.


The demo, which features Reed on both vocals and guitar, is about three minutes shorter than the final version that appeared on the album, though both are structurally pretty similar.

The first instalment in the Lou Reed archive series, Words & Music, May 1965 is a collection of previously unreleased tracks taken from Reed’s formative years. According to a press release, these songs were “penned by a young Lou Reed, recorded to tape with the help of future bandmate John Cale, and mailed to himself as a “poor man’s copyright”. The tape has remained sealed in its original envelope and is unopened for nearly 50 years — until now.

In addition to Heroin, the album will also feature the earliest known recordings of Pale Blue Eyes and I’m Waiting for the Man, the latter of which was shared earlier last month.

Words & Music, May 1965 will be released in a variety of formats including LP, cassette, 8-track, digital, and CD. A special deluxe 45-RPM double LP edition of the album will also be released, limited to 7,500 copies worldwide. Pre-orders are now open at the Lou Reed Archive website.

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