We ran this auction last week, but as we have reported to the international press which has enquired, the winning bid was found to have been perpetrated by a prankster. We are rerunning the auction this time with amendments to the effect that in the present auction, identities of bidders will be kept private to avoid attracting non-serious attention-seeking bidders, and we are also requiring that interested bidders register before bidding so that we may examine their references. We are hopeful that this will ensure a fair and accurate auction result which will reflect actual market interest. - Scott Wax, Saturn Records
AT AUCTION: ARGUABLY THE RAREST & MOST IMPORTANT ROCK 'N' ROLL AND POP-ART ARTIFACT IN THE WORLD
This auction is for a 12" LP acetate whose unearthing has been storied in several international news features, periodicals and a documentary over the last several years including Rolling Stone Magazine (December 30, 2004), Mojo Magazine (May 2005), U.K. Record Collector Magazine (May 2005), Goldmine Magazine (December 8, 2006), The Globe & Mail (May 28, 2005 and January 14, 2006), and the 2006 Documentary "Velvet Underground Under Review (An Independent Critical Analysis)".
Globe & Mail presentation here, here, here, & here:
Mojo Magazine presentation here:
U.K. Record Collector presentation here, here & here:
Rolling Stone Magazine presentation here & here:
Goldmine Magazine presentation here & here:
Link To "Velvet Underground Under Review" DVD here:
Following is excerpted and adapted (with the author's approval) from the article written by Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records in Portland Oregon which is featured in the December 8, 2006 issue of Goldmine Magazine which is on newsstands through mid December:
THE MYSTERY OF THE VELVET UNDERGROUND'S "REAL FIRST RECORD" (AND HOW THE ONLY EXISTING COPY WAS BOUGHT FOR 75 CENTS)
In September of 2002 Warren Hill of Montreal Canada was perusing a box of records at a Chelsea, New York street sale when he happened upon a nice Leadbelly 10" on Folkways, a water damaged copy of the first Modern Lovers LP on Beserkely, and a brittle 12" piece of acetone-covered aluminum with the words "Velvet Underground. 4-25-66. Att N. Dolph" written on the label. He purchased the three records for 75 cents each.
As I have a small knowledge of records and am an old friend of Warren's, I got a call from him the next day in which he described the acetate. Because of the date and the unique type of pressing, we both agreed that it was probably an in-studio acetate made during the recording of the first Velvet Underground LP back in 1966 (I had heard that they occasionally would have
a vinyl cutting lathe in the studio to cut records of the day's recordings for the artists and/or producers to take home for review). Warren didn't want to play the mysterious platter due to the fragile nature of acetates, and the cheap nature of his record needle, so we agreed that the next time he was visiting me in Portland we would check it out together. If it turned out to be what we thought it was, maybe we could sell it at Mississippi Records, the small neighborhood record store in Portland that I work at. Sight unseen and sound unheard, I assumed that it was likely an acetate pressing of the recording which would be eventually be released as
the group's first album, "The Velvet Underground & Nico".
It took awhile for Warren to visit, but when he did he brought along the acetate. We cued it up and were stunned -- the first song was not "Sunday Morning" as on the "Velvet Underground & Nico" Verve LP, but rather it was "European Son"- the song that is last on that LP, and it was a version neither of us had ever heard before! It was less bombastic and more bluesy
than the released version, and it clocked in at a full two minutes longer. I immediately took the needle off the record, and realized that we had something special. Between the two of us we had heard many Velvets outtakes on both official and less than official releases, but the present material had never been heard by either of us.
The next few days found us scrambling for clues and information about what to make of this find; calling every record collector/historian we knew and reading everything we could find concerning the early recordings of the VU. We pieced together that this was probably a surviving copy of the legendary Scepter studios recordings which had been regarded as lost (hence the epic moniker "the lost scepter studios recordings" applied to these unheard sessions over the years). The recording is comprised of the primitive first "finished" version of the LP that Andy Warhol had shopped to Columbia as a ready-to-release debut album by his protege collective "The Velvet Underground".
This acetate, which is perhaps one of only two surviving copies (more on this speculation in the Q&A below), represents the first Velvet Underground album as Andy Warhol intended it to be released.
Though the same compositions and even a few of the same "takes" (albeit in different mixes) were used on the subsequent commercial release, that which was eventually issued as their debut album on Verve, "The Velvet Underground & Nico", was a significantly different creation. I had heard of these nascent recordings before... it was said by some that the master
tapes had burned in a fire, by others that all of those recordings ended up being on the released album, and still by others that the only existing copy of that material was on an acetate owned by David Bowie, and that he was known to tout it as his most prized possession.
The truth about what we held was fuzzy until Warren managed to track down the N. Dolph referred to on the label for an interview.
Norman Dolph was a perennial in the New York art & music scene of the 1960's. He worked as a sales representative at Columbia Records through 1967, and was deeply involved with different facets of the independent music world on the side. Andy Warhol, who was managing the Velvets at the time, contacted Dolph & offered him a painting in exchange for services as
"ghost" (uncredited) producer for the Velvet's first recording session. Warhol wanted to record a Velvets album before they had a record company behind them as this would tend to minimize meddling label executives' mobility in compromising the musical arrangement's distraught primal force, not to mention the unprecedented taboo lyrics which openly address sex, drugs, and depravity. Warhol's plan was to have Dolph record it and then shop it around to labels (first & foremost Columbia) as a finished recording.
...and so Dolph rented out Scepter studios, and with an engineer named John Licata by his side, they recorded the Velvets for four days. At the time Scepter studios was between reconstruction and demolition with walls falling over and holes in the floor. Velvets' bass & viola player John Cale would later recall the environment as "Post-Apocalyptic".
Dolph took the master tapes made during this session to the Columbia building, which still had an in-house pressing plant, and cut the acetate "after hours" with people he knew on the inside. Dolph then sent the acetate to Columbia to see if they were interested in releasing it. It was returned promptly with a note that said something akin to "do you think we're out of our f**king minds?" Dolph then gave the acetate to Andy Warhol or John Cale, he cannot remember which.
Six of the songs recorded during the Scepter session made it on to the "Velvet Underground & Nico" LP, albeit with radically different mixes. The other four songs were re-recorded in LA by Tom Wilson. As far as we know, the only listenable copy of the original versions of Heroin, Venus In Furs, I'm Waiting For The Man, and European Son exist on the acetate that Warren
found. (A Japanese bootleg of the same material did appear, but in poor, arguably ‘unlistenable' sound quality. It is possible that the source tape for the Japanese bootleg was made from this very acetate decades ago when it was in different hands. Who knows?) We have since realized that we are in possession of a likely one of a kind artifact - the first recordings by one of the most influential rock bands of all time!
After establishing the authenticity of Warren's find we photographed the item and made a high quality digital back-up copy of the material. A media frenzy ensued, with articles appearing in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Record Collector, The Globe & Mail, and many other news sources. Calls started flooding in from people interested in buying the acetate, as well as record companies interested in releasing the songs on it. After much consideration, we decided that it would be best to release it to the highest bidder through an auction facilitated by our good friends at Saturn Records in Oakland, California (a store that has a well-established presence in the international vinyl collecting community, and an excellent reputation on the internet).
As to the most interesting mystery brought up by the appearance of this item - how did such an important artifact disappear for 37 years & end up at a Chelsea New York yard sale priced at 75 cents? ...We have no answer.
The track differences between the acetate versions and the commercial recordings on "The Velvet Underground & Nico" are detailed as follows:
1.European Son- completely different version,. Guitar solo is much bluesier. Less noisy and experimental. Longer by 2 minutes or so.
2.Black Angel's Death Song-Same take as released version. Different mix.
3.All Tomorrow's Parties- Same take as released version. Different mix.
4.I'll Be Your Mirror-Same take as released version. Radically different mix. No echo on Nico's vocals. Background vocals on end of song are more subdued.
5.Heroin-Completely different take than released version. Guitar line is different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. Drumming is more primitive & off kilter. There is a tambourine dragging throughout the song.
6.Femme Fatale- Same take as released version. Radically different mix. Percussion more prominent. Alternate take on background vocals. Much more "poppy".
7.Venus In Furs- Different take than released version. Vocal inflections completely different. Instrumentation more based around Cales' violin than the guitar as in the released version.
8.I'm Waiting For The Man- Different take than released version. Guitar line is completely different. Vocal inflections different, and a few different lyrics. No drums, just tambourine. Bluesy guitar solo.
9.Run Run Run- Same take as released version. Different mix.
Visual: VG- Surface scratches on both sides.
Aural: VG- There is surface noise which is fairly consistent throught the LP. It is most dense during the first two tracks, but we are told by a friend that is handy with pro tools that getting rid of the surface noise throughout would be fairly easy.
The main flaws are a skip about 35 seconds into the first song (European son), & a skip about 10 seconds into the eighth song (I'm Waiting for the man). Digital trickery could be used to smooth out the skip on the 8th song fairly easily, but the skip on the first track may prove a bit more difficult.
Click for larger views of label Side 1, Label Side 2, and the full record
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P O S T A G E R A T E S :
Shipping fee will be at actual cost to your location (no extra 'handling' charges). We will not be able to calculate shipping fees to your area before the auction is closed. We will ship according to your specifications or hand the item off to your agent after cleared payment is received.
P A Y M E N T:
Acceptable payment methods are Money Order, Cashier's Check, Personal Check, Bank Transfer or any other reliable method of money transfer except Paypal and Credit Cards. Paypal and Credit Cards are not accepted for this auction. The record is being held off the premises of Saturn Records, so any inquiries requesting further details than those listed above will be subject to a one or two day delay. This is said for the benefit of anyone that may have a question arise in the last day of the auction - in that case, it may not be possible to provide further details before auction's end.
R E G A R D I N G C O M M U N I C A T I O N:
Please note that a high level of interest is anticipated for this item. As such, we respectfully request that inquires for any further detail (we can't imagine what!!) are limited to essentials. Please do not seek the confirmation of statemens already made in this auction entry as their presence here respresents our endorsement of their truth. Due to high volume of eBay transactions and a very busy retail store it will not be feasible to respond to emails which ask us for information already contained in the entry above, or for information which does not seem necessary for making an informed decision about bidding on this item. Good luck in the auction!
THANKS! VINYL/SATURN RECORDS
Following are some questions that were answered during the ill-fated previous run of this auction last week. They are reprinted (with minor amendments) here for all concerned:
Q: May I recommend to the winner of this that he buy a LASER TURNTABLE so he can play this as many times as he wants without damaging it? http://www.elpj.com/ It's a small fee in comparison to the cost of this acetate. Dec-08-06
A: Hello, That's a great suggestion! - Scott, Saturn Records (Note: I subsequently received a comment stating the belief that acetates cannot be played on a laser table. I recommend the winning bidder consult the dealer of his choice about this point before purchasing.)
Q: You may or may not want to publish this, but the answer to Copyright question is manifestly no. I'm a copyright attorney and the law is clear that the copyright in a sound recording does not travel with the sound recording. It resides either with the person's on the recording or the recording engineers and their company, or both depending on various facts including the contract, if any, between the engineer and the band. The only thing that is certain is that it does not belong to a purchaser of the master. Dec-05-06
A: Hi Skramble - Yes, I will publish it with the auction so that bidders will have no confusion about this point. Thanks for taking the time to share the information. - Scott, Saturn Records
Q: The 'rumor' about Moe's acetate is true! I have worked with her and Sterling on projects in the past, and they both mentioned how the band played it several times to see how the NY sessions had gone. I've seen it, with Sterling's handwritten 'featuring Moe Tucker' on the front of the white cover. This 'legend' is true--there definitely is another copy. --M.C. Kostek Dec-04-06
A: Though we must still regard this as unconfirmed, we will post it in the interest of keeping our bidders informed about claims which seem credible to us. If this correspondence is indeed, as I am inclined to believe, from Mike Kostek, author of 'The Velvet Underground Handbook', we thank you for your contribution. (It was later confirmed that this report was indeed from Mike Kostek). - Scott, Saturn Records
Q: I realize you stand to make a lot of cash on this record, but don't you think an artifact like this should be placed in the hands of a museum or the rock and roll hall of fame, or some entity that can properly care for it, or in the hands of the band itself? I bet Lou Reed himself, may pay you more for it than you could earn off ebay, you should try getting ahold of him or something via his record company or whatever. Mike Dec-02-06
A: Hi Mike, I appreciate your position. We have received a number of emails echoing this sentiment. We are confident that the item will go to a responsible party who will care for it as the historic artifact that it is while in their hands. If the winning bidder wishes to donate it to either Lou Reed or the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall Of Fame, then that will be a fine thing. For our part, we feel that ethical conduct is everyone's responsibility, but philanthropy is primarily the responsibility of the wealthy. I don't expect Warren should feel obliged to donate such a valuable object to posterity when he can be paid a fair market value to pass it to someone that is in a better position to do that. Thanks for your consideration. I appreciate the passion for music and history that is evident in your message. - Scott, Saturn Records
Q: Another copy of this acetate showed up 2 years ago from a Moe Tucker basement box & has been released unofficially on cd last year,maybe you'd make it public as in your description you write that yours is the only existing copy.All the serious Velvet Underground collectors knows that this is not the only copy.For sure your copy is in better conditions than the Moe's.It will not affect the big price you're gonna get at the end... Dec-02-06
A: The legend of the surfacing of a Moe Tucker copy is documented nowhere that we could find except on the liner of the Japanese bootleg referenced in our description above. As such, we regard it as rumored (at best) and thus unreliable. That Warren's copy is far superior in sound to the bootleg is noteworthy, however, and would lend credibility to the notion that there could be another copy extant. Please advise if you have an information source more credible than the liner notes of a bootleg CD and/or word of mouth. Has Moe Tucker confirmed this rumor? - Scott, Saturn Records
Q: Does ownership of the acetate come with a copyright to manufacture? Nov-30-06
A: I do not know the answer to this question. Any intellectual copyright attorney should be able to assess this for you once they learn of the situation. The facts are straighforward: this acetate contains unreleased performances and/or mixes of songs which, as compositions, are otherwise held property and for which only alternative published commercial performance recordings have been available for 40 years. As to whether the tracks which are primarily alternative mixes (and thus the same performances with perhaps the odd overdub) are covered under the publishing of the released mixes of those particular recordings, I do not know. Your attorney and those of the publishing holders will likely know best. - Scott, Saturn Records
Q: Hi, Is this the record purchased by Waren or it is a second one ? Thanks ! Nov-29-06
A: This is Warren's copy, and he has asked Saturn Records to offer it on his behalf. Despite claims in some of the articles that he intended to sell the record at auction 'next month' a year or two ago, in fact the record was neither offered previously at auction, nor was a purchase made by Universal Music, or any other label. No deal or auction was ever finalized, and the recording of this disc has remained uncirculated. This is the first time Warren's record has been committed to a sale. - Scott, Saturn Records.