The first live record of Lou Reed
's solo career, "Rock N Roll Animal" was recorded at the New York Academy of Music
in December 1973, and released in March 1974. The tracklist is only 5 songs, and the running time is 40 minutes. Heroin
is stretched to 13 minutes, and Rock And Roll
to 10 minutes.
At the time, Reed was touring in support of his critical masterpiece/commercial failure "Berlin", and had made a pre-arrangement with RCA Records, that if they agreed to release "Berlin", Lou would have to provide something that would sell a few copies.
The backing band on "Animal" was a group of glam-rock veterans, including the superbly skilled blind guitarist, Steve Hunter. The entire band would later back Alice Cooper.
The record opens with a nearly four-minute guitar intro written by Hunter. It sounds more like an Allman Brothers jam than something that is about to turn into "Sweet Jane". Lou takes the stage to extremely fake-sounding applause (rumor has it the applause track was added afterwards from a John Denver concert) and proceeds to mumble his way through a brutally powerful version of his signature song. It's followed by a vastly different "Heroin" from the one recorded with the Velvet Underground six years before, featuring extreme dynamic shifts, the beautiful guitar work of Hunter and Dick Wagner, and a mid-song organ freakout by keyboardist Ray Colcord where the entire rest of the band drops out.
"Rock and Roll" suffers from an overly long instrumental outro, but "Lady Day" (the only non-Velvets song on the record) redeems it. This was Lou's tribute to Billie Holiday, from the just-released "Berlin" album, done as a glacially heavy ballad. Lou delivers his most intense vocal of the night, recounting Billie Holiday's last days, and Steve Hunter wraps it up with a knife's-edge solo. It's one of the few moments in Lou Reed's solo career where he doesn't appear to be mailing it in.
1. Sweet Jane
3. White Light/White Heat
4. Lady Day
5. Rock And Roll
Dick Wagner--Guitar and Vocals
Prakash John--Bass and Vocals
"Rock and Roll Animal" became Lou's nickname for a period of time in the 1970s. He also tried to give himself "The Hamlet of Electricity" as a nickname, but it never really took. Other songs from this concert were released as "Lou Reed Live" in 1975.