Listen to Lou Reed’s Previously Unreleased Demo of “Heroin”

2022 marks nine years since Lou Reed’s passing. The highly influential singer, who would have turned 80 this year, will have his formative years shared through previously unreleased demos and other recordings. The material will be released via independent label Light in the Attic for their forthcoming Lou Reed Archival Series. The inaugural title, Words & Music, May 1965, is out Aug. 26.

One of the demos featured on the forthcoming release is perhaps the earliest demo of what will become the beloved Velvet Underground hit “Heroin.” The original is known for the slowly creeping guitar and rushing drums that explode into ecstasy and devolve into madness, mimicking the drug’s effects. The demo clocks in at a little over three minutes, less than half of the final recording’s runtime. Reed’s folky guitar strums ebb and flow in intensity with his vocals as he plays with the cadence of the song’s rise and fall. However, much of his original vision is reflected in the version we all know.

Words & Music, May 1965 will be released on various physical formats in addition to digital. Among the other rarities include the previously released alternate version of “I’m Waiting for the Man,” a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” and a doo-wop serenade recorded by Reed when he was 16 years old.

Below, listen to the 1965 demo of “Heroin” and preorder Words & Music, May 1965 here. Keep scrolling to watch Reed perform “White Light / White Heat” in 1984 via the Paste archives.