Earlier this year, Light in the Attic announced the upcoming release of Words & Music, May 1965, a set of previously unreleased demo recordings from the late Lou Reed. It’s due for release on September 16, and a handful of tracks from the compilation have been released so far, including early demo versions of Velvet Underground songs “Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man,” which both later appeared on 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico. Today another newly unearthed song, “Men of Good Fortune,” has been released. Hear it below.
“‘Men of Good Fortune’ has every trademark of one of the traditional Child Ballads from England and Scotland dating back for centuries and passed on from person to person,” said archivists Jason Stern and Don Fleming in a press release. “They had rarely been documented in print but were finally compiled in Francis James Child’s landmark book, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, published between 1882 and 1898. The Child Ballads were a great source of inspiration for folk artists in the early 1960s, with Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Fairport Convention borrowing heavily from the book. Child Ballad #2, ‘The Elfin Knight,’ through a series of other singers, informed Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Scarborough Fair’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Girl from the North Country.’ Child Ballad #2 and many others include a ‘maiden’ or ‘maid,’ as Reed portrays himself in the song. It’s notable how the words to this version of ‘Men of Good Fortune’ could seemingly fit right in as a variant of a Child Ballad, but it doesn’t appear to borrow lines from the book or other songs, traditional or popular. Reed sings and plays the song alone.”
The Velvet Underground’s “I Heard Her Call My Name” is included in our feature, A History of Shoegaze in 45 Essential Songs.