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A newly discovered Lou Reed tape reveals Andy Warhol-inspired lyrics

Her “mind was being blown all over the place”. Cornell University music professor Judith Peraino was researching a book at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh when she discovered a mysterious cassette tape.

Side 1 had live recordings of Lou Reed from 1975. Side 2 was labeled The Philosophy Songs (From A to B and Back), a reference to Andy Warhol’s book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

None of these twelve tracks — and a fragment of a 13th — on a mysterious Lou Reed tape have ever been released. In fact they’ve rarely been heard.

“It sounds like he recorded them in his apartment with an open-air microphone, just voice and acoustic guitar,” Judith Peraino told the Cornell Chronicle about the newly discovered works. Peraino’s paper announcing the discovery, I’ll Be Your Mixtape: Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, and the Queer Intimacies of Cassettes, published October 30 in the Journal of Musicology, included a 30-second clip of one of the songs.

The discovery sheds new light on the singular relationship between Reed and the manager of The Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol. It also reflects Warhol and Reed’s failed attempt to collaborate again after the acclaimed album The Velvet Underground and Nico and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable events in the late ’60s. They would never really patch things up before their respective deaths in 1987 and 2013.

The tape’s contents were described by the music professor as “rough versions of songs which Reed never really perfected”, “quite caustic” and “bitter at times”.

“I place this cassette in the context of the emerging common practice of creating and gifting homemade mixtapes of curated music, and demonstrate how such mixtapes function as a type of ‘closet media’ marked by private audience, disappearance, and inaccessibility.

This intimate tape is a tangled portrait of the Velvet Underground musician, his mentor, and their fraught relationship. Unfortunately, we probably won’t ever hear these recordings, nor discover the lyrics due to legal issues surrounding song ownership and rights. However, there is nothing to stop us fantasising about what it would have been like if the two artists had set aside their differences to create more together.