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Lost Lou Reed Songs Recorded for Andy Warhol Discovered by Musicology Professor

Lou Reed, left, and Andy Warhol
Lindsay France/Cornell Marketing

Rough versions of 12 previously unreleased songs by Lou Reed recorded for Andy Warhol have been discovered on a cassette tape from 1975, stored in the archives of the Warhol Museum.

The songs, which are on one side of the cassette, are based on Warhol’s book, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again).” The songs were discovered by Judith Peraino, professor of music at Cornell University, who was doing archival research at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

“It sounds like he recorded them in his apartment with an open-air microphone, just voice and acoustic guitar,” Peraino says (see the video below for more about the discovery). Warhol, who essentially managed Reed and the Velvet Underground at the time of their 1967 debut album, was in many ways Reed’s mentor, although the two had an often-contentious relationship.

Reed labeled side 2 of the tape “The Philosophy Songs (From A to B and Back).” Side 1 of the cassette consists of songs dubbed from soundboard recordings of Reed’s 1975 concerts.

She said she wasn’t fully aware of what she had found until a Warhol Museum staffer commented that she had essentially discovered an unreleased Lou Reed album.

“That’s when the excitement really hit,” she said. “What makes this rare is the gift aspect of the tape – that Lou Reed intentionally created both a curated set of songs and a composed set of songs on tape meant only for Warhol.”

Listen to a 30-second excerpt here:

The tape features Reed sketching out the songs, using phrases from Warhol’s “Philosophy” book as raw material for lyrics, according to the New York Times, which first published the story. One song draws out variations on the phrase “so what” — “one of my favorite things to say,” Warhol wrote — as a dismissive gesture, while Warhol’s perspectives on fame, sex and the art business are addressed in one song each; two songs are about drag queens. Another finds Reed criticizing Warhol for his lack of response to the deaths of former acolytes Candy Darling and Eric Emerson. In another, “Reed sings that Warhol should have died when he was shot in 1968 — only to end the song with a spoken apology to Warhol, who died in 1987,” the Times reports.

The chance of the recordings being official released seems slim, due to issues over its copyright. The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts controls Warhol’s intellectual property in the archive, but the contents of the tape could also be claimed by the Reed estate or even his former record company, Peraino told the Times. Michael Hermann, the director of licensing for the Warhol Foundation, said, “Without an understanding of what is included on the tape and who created the recording, we are unable to say at this point what, if anything, the foundation can do to make them more easily accessible.” Access to the tape, which is still held at the Warhol Museum, is restricted to professional scholars.

Reed and former Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale paid tribute to Warhol gave a series of performances and released an album in 1989 and 1990 called “Songs for Drella.”

The cassette came to the Warhol Museum as one of nearly 3,500 audiotapes, part of the extensive collection Warhol assembled of the sounds of his life.

Peraino unearthed another partial recording of the “Philosophy Songs” at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “I’ll Be Your Mixtape: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and the Queer Intimacies of Cassettes,” was published Oct. 30 in the Journal of Musicology and includes a 30-second clip of one of the songs with permission from the Lou Reed Estate.