Morning Music: I’m Waiting for My Man

The Velvet Underground & NicoIt’s been a long time since I’ve thought about The Velvet Underground. Too often, the band is thought of as the Lou Reed band. But that ain’t true. Like David Byrne after him, Reed got far more credit than he deserved. For example, take today’s song, “I’m Waiting for My Man.” It says on the album that it was written by Reed, but that’s not true. It was written by Reed along with Sterling Morrison and John Cale. In any discussion of anything that Lou Reed did, it is important to remember that Lou Reed was a total jerk. He never gave proper credit and insisted on keeping Doug Yule out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although I’m a fan of much of his work, I don’t think much of Lou Reed as a human being.

The remarkable thing about The Velvet Underground & Nico is that it was meant to be your typical Andy Warhol commercial joke. Yet it is a great album. Much of the songwriting on the album is great. But what sells it is the band, which is powerfully direct. Listen to “I’m Waiting for My Man.” It is stripped down to the barest that it can be without being boring. It doesn’t hurt that it is also one of the greatest rock songs ever written.

Please note: I don’t care what it says on the album cover. I don’t care what Reed might have sung in earlier versions. He is not waiting for “the man.” In the parlance of that time and even now, “the man” is the police. This is a friendly encounter. He’s waiting for his dealer who simply doesn’t have the reputation to be considered “the” man regardless. The most compelling part of the song occurs before the dealer shows up. The narrator is clearly in a place where he doesn’t belong and he has to explain himself to the locals, “I’m just waiting for a dear, dear friend of mine.” Very dear indeed.

There has never been a song written about drugs that is as authentic as, “I’m Waiting for My Man.”

11 thoughts on “Morning Music: I’m Waiting for My Man

  1. A friendly encounter? Well, he’s never early; he’s always late. Like heroin dealers going back to the beginning, dude makes customers wait on principle. First thing you learn.

    The later VU stuff is pretty much all Reed, but not the first album clearly. Quite a confluence of musical talent and cultural circumstance. My favorite album by my favorite band. The album features another, longer, song about drugs which I like even more than this one.

    • To each his own. I seem to get in a lot of arguments with people about VU. I’m not nearly as fond of “Heroin.” It seems designed to offend. It’s more like the way a non-junkie imagines a junkie thinks than the way a junkie actually thinks. Of course, they were all involved with all those “beautiful people.” But I’ve always gotten the impression that Reed wasn’t that into the drug — at least not the way he was into speed a few years later. But I like some of the things that are happening musically with the band in that song. I disagree with you about the later stuff being all Reed. Maybe the third album, but certainly not White Light/White Heat and certainly not Loaded — but in very different ways. To be honest, my favorite album is probably the 1969 live. I think Robert Quine had said that Reed was at his best when he didn’t see himself as an “artist.” I agree with that. There’s something really compelling about 1969 in that it’s just a band performing some songs. Although I think “Sweet Jane” on Loaded is perfect. In his solo career, Reed could never really get the song to work. Like on Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, Reed’s vocals almost destroy the song. But on Loaded, Reed manages some vocal performances that are unlike anything else he did. I’m getting sidetracked. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the week goes along.

      • I’m a sucker for sweet songs, so I love “Here Comes The Sun.” But then again I also adore “Satellite Of Love.” I just dig shit like that. Anybody who digs the more discordant VU/Reed stuff, well, they’re not wrong either.

        • I’ll get to that later this week. That’s a song that Doug Yule sang and he has a distinctly sweeter voice than Reed. On the original release, there’s the wonderful instrumental introduction, “Who Loves the Sun?” and “Sweet Jane.” It all runs together. Since then, they’ve tended to separate “Sweet Jane” as though “Who Loves the Sun?” is an embarrassment. It isn’t. I’m sure I’ll repeat myself later, but during the making of the album, Mo was pregnant, so Yule played all the drums (I think). And Morrison was finishing his degree and preparing for his life as a college professor — he was around but not much. The album really was Yule and Reed. And over the years, it’s really come to bug me that Yule doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. Given that almost everyone considers Loaded the best album (I disagree, of course), it is outrageous that Yule is somehow relegated to interloper. As it is, my understanding is that Yule sang lead where he did because Reed (who always had an incredibly weak voice) wasn’t up to it. Really, it all comes down to this: Reed had a big solo career, so he’s number one in VU in most people’s eyes. Cale had a reasonable career so he’s number two. Mo was a woman so she’s number three. No one remembers Morrison. And as much as Yule is remembered, he’s considered some kind of evil genius who pushed Reed out of the band. This, of course, is not true. As I recall, Reed left the bamd before Loaded was released — maybe even before it was finished.

  2. I’ve been a heroin user for more than 20 years and I love the Velvets but your’e wrong about Lou Reed , he was a real poet like Zappa was a composer of classical music , I dig the solo shit Lou did just as much as the Velvet 5 cd box or my other favourite band , the british anti rock band the Fall , check it out but it’s not for everyone , especially the song ” No Xmas for John Quays ” , get it ?

    • I didn’t put Lou Reed down as a poet, I put him down as a person. And that is backed up by many people plus my own encounter with him. Reed was my idol when I was younger. I still respect most of his work. But I think I have a pretty objective opinion of him. I’m not Lester Bangs. (How I wish!) I don’t think Metal Machine Music is brilliant art.

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