For today’s song of the day, you actually get an entire concert and a bit of a history lesson. A long time ago, in the odd netherworld between Bay Village and the South End, a rock club inhabited 53 Berkeley Street. It was one of those mythic places that hosted every band you’ve ever heard of from the late 1960s (save for the Beatles and the Stones). Peter Wolf’s first band, The Hallucinations, were regular performers. Don Law managed and booked the club in 1968 on his way to becoming the concert promoter extraordinaire. Tom Hamilton, Aerosmith bassist, said he and Joe Perry would go see Fleetwood Mac at Boston Tea Party before they were cool.
And The Velvet Underground played there, many times. We have a full concert to share with you.
The Fraternity of Unitarian Churches inhabited the building in the late 19th century. The club, upon its opening in 1967, was, “a legendary cathedral of the hippy era. It was a local psychedelic trippy San Francisco kinda club, which was really happening at the time,” said Hamilton in a 2005 interview with bullz-eye.com. The club operated at this location for about three years, between January 20, 1967 and July 11, 1969, before moving to 15 Lansdowne Street. I don’t know if I could have stayed at home one night after reading the show schedule for the original location. It reminds me of the marquee of the Fillmore East photographed for a Neil Young record. You think, “this actually happened?”
Comparing the show schedules, it seems Boston Tea Party occupied the same space for touring bands in Boston as did the Fillmore East in New York. Led Zeppelin, The Who, B.B. King, Miles Davis and many others played both. Boston Tea Party never got Jimi Hendrix in either location, but the Fillmore never got the Velvet Underground.
And here lies our song (concert?) for the day. We have an entire archival concert of the Velvet Underground performing at Boston Tea Party on January 10, 1969. For VU fans keeping score at home, this is show was a couple months prior to the release of the third self-titled album, but after most tracks were recorded. Numerous tracks from the self-titled album get previewed at this show, including “What Goes On,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Candy Says” and others. Photos at the top and bottom of this article feature the VU performing at Boston Tea Party, though according to their flickr captions they date from a 1967 show.
15 Lansdowne Street was to become Boston-Boston, Metro, Citi and eventually Avalon, before it was demolished in 2008 to make way for House of Blues. Meanwhile, 53 Berkeley was gutted and converted to condos in the early 1980s. Save for a green plaque placed in 2007, the building holds little reminder of the rock and roll majesty to which it once played host.