David Bowie sees The Velvet Underground live

The Velvet Underground performed at New York’s Electric Circus on 29 and 30 January 1971. One of the shows was seen by David Bowie.

Bowie had been a huge fan since 1967, when his then-manager Kenneth Pitt gave him a copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico. He was keen to see them while in New York, but was unaware that their line-up had changed from the earlier days.

When I first came to the US, around 1971, my New York guide told me one day that The Velvet Underground were to play later that night at the Electric Circus, which was about to close. I was the biggest fan in the UK, I believe.

I got to the gig early and positioned myself at the front by the lip of the stage. The performance was great, and I made sure that Lou Reed could see that I was a true fan by singing along to all the songs. After the show, I moved to the side of the stage to where the door of the dressing room was located.

I knocked, and one of the band members answered. After a few gushing compliments, I asked if I could have a few words with Lou. He looked bemused but told me to wait a second.

After only moments, Lou came out, and we sat and talked about songwriting for 10 minutes or so. I left the club floating on cloud nine — a teenage ambition achieved.

The next day, I told my guide what a blast it had been to see The Velvets live and meet Lou Reed. He looked at me quizzically for a second, then burst into laughter.

‘Lou left the band some time ago,’ he said. ‘You were talking to his replacement, Doug Yule.’

David Bowie
Esquire, March 2004
Last updated: 3 April 2023
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