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white light/white heat

Lou Reed

© Oakfield Avenue Music Ltd.

After waiting for the man on the their debut LP, The Velvet Underground's second album kicked off with the resulting score - the rush into amphetimine highs as the protagonist and the music desend into absolute chaos. It was called White Light/White Heat.

Johhny And The Self Abusers played it strictly for laughs, enjoying the song's decreasing restraint in the coda. It was one of the few covers picked up by Simple Minds where it became a mid-set stomper during th 1978, Life In A Dayr and Real To Real Cacophony tours.

Despite new songs being constantly written, the Velvet's classic was even featured during the Empires And Dance tours, but had now shifted to final encore, and it was finally pushed off the end of the set-list by 1981. It could be enjoyed on various cassette bootlegs of shows but was now in 'a old song they used to play' territory.

That dramatically changed during preparations for the band's Good News From The Next World. The song was completely stripped down and rearranged in a new acoustic version (which suited the touring lineup as Charlie, Malcolm Foster and Mark Schulmann all unplugged and picked up guitars during the show).

This new version was debuted during the 'warm-up' Christmas shows across the USA. Fans reported hearing two 'new' songs: the first was the debut of She's A River whilst the second was the resurrection of White Light/White Heat.

Fans in Europe would have to wait until February 1995 before they heard this new version. As part of the promotional push for Good News From The Next World, the band performed their final Radio One session, playing from their rehearsal studio for the forthcoming tour. It was the final song broadcast from the session (one being played each day) and Jim gave the background during the show: "Hi, this is Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, talking to you once again from Burbank, California with the last song of our four song session. This song was written by someone who's been a huge influence on our band over the years. His name is Lou Reed. And this is a song that we loved to play when we were first starting out back in Glasgow in 1977. The song is called 'White Light/White Heat'. Once again, it's been our pleasure. Look forward to seeing you on tour in March. Until then, see you later."

It was a welcome staple of the set-list during the Good News From The Next World tour and so was included on various official recordings of the tour. It was recorded and broadcast by The Album Network, floated around Virgin as a CD-acetate, and could be most easily tracked down on the CD bootleg 95 Sunset Strip. The final version recorded that year was a rough-and-ready riot with Arno for the French TV show Taratata - strictly for completists only and handily available on the excellent Don't Forget Paris bootleg.

Unfortunately the song was forgotten again until the expansive, career spanning set-lists of the early 2000s. It was dusted down and reappraised during rehearsals for the Alive And Kicking Tour in June 2003. Pleased with this more conventional version of the song, the band formally recorded it, where it eventually appeared on the almost-impossible-to-get Live And Rare album, but not before being premiered by Billy Sloan on this Radio Clyde Sunday night show (on the 1st December 2003).

It has since disappeared from their live concerts.

White light; white light going messin' up my mind,
White light; and don't you know, gonna make me go blind.
White heat; oh, white heat, it tickle me down to my toes,
White light; oh, have mercy, white light have it, goodness knows.

White light; white light going messin' up my brain,
White light; oh, white light it's gonna drive me insane.
White heat; oh, white heat, it tickle me down to my toes,
White light; oh, white light, I said now, goodness knows.
Do it.

Oh, oh, white light,
Oh, I surely do love watch that stuff shooting itself in.
Oh, oh, white light,
Watch that side, watch that side.
Don't you know, gonna be dead and bright?
Oh, oh, white heat,
Yeah, foxy mama, watch her walking down the street.
Oh, oh, white light,
Come upside, your head gonna make a dead end on your street.

White light; white light movin' me drain my brain,
White light; white light gonna make me really go insane.
White heat; oh, white heat, it tickle me down to my toes,
White light; oh, white light, I said now, goodness knows.

White light; oh, white light, it's lightin' up my eyes,
White light; don't you know it fills me up with surprise.
White heat; oh, white heat, tickle me down to my toes,
White light; oh, white light, I tell you now, goodness knows.
Work at it.

Oh, oh, white light; oh, she surely do move speed,
Oh, oh, white light; watch that speed freak, watch that speed freak,
Everybody gonna make it every week.

Oh, oh, white heat; oh, sputter mutter, everybody gonna kill their mother,
Oh, oh, white light; here she comes, here she comes,
Everybody get it, make me run.
Do it.

Live Version (2nd March 1995) (4:27)
Recorded: House Of Blues, Hollywood, USA
Mixed by: Mikal Reid

House Of Blues Promotional MC House Of Blues Promotional CD

Album Version (4:29)
Producer: Charlie Burchill and Gordy Goudie
Engineer: Kevin Burleigh

Live And Rare album

Nicky Campbell, Radio One: 20th-23rd February 1995

live history
Johnny And The Self Abusers: 1977
Simple Minds: 1978
Life In A Day Tour: 1979
Real To Real Cacophony Tour: 1979-1980
Empires And Dance Tour: 1980
Empires And Dance Tour: 1981
Good News From The Next World Tour: 1995
Alive And Kicking Tour: 2003