"I'm Waiting for the Man" is a song by the American rock band The Velvet Underground, written by Lou Reed. It was first released on their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

The song is about purchasing 26 dollars worth of heroin in a Harlem brownstone near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in New York City. The song is sung from the point of view of the purchaser who is presumably traveling to Harlem from another part of the city; the "man" in the song's title is a drug dealer. Along with traditional guitar, bass, and drums, the song also features pounding, percussive rock-and-roll barrelhouse-style piano. It is one of the band's more popular songs, and one of their many compositions featuring drugs as subject matter. After leaving the band in 1970, Lou Reed continued to incorporate the song into his solo live performances. Reed does not often sing the song himself anymore. Released as a single in October 1971 (b/w "There She Goes Again") as Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground on MGM Records.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #159 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Alternate versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Ludlow Street Loft, July 1965[edit source | editbeta]Edit

[1][2]A row of tenements on the Lower East Side.

The song was among a set of early songs to be recorded by Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison in the band's Ludlow Street loft in Manhattan. This version of the song, free of percussion, has a considerably more folk and even blues influence in style than the album version. It is available on the first disc of the Peel Slowly and See box set.

Scepter Studios, April 1966[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Before the final album version of the song was re-recorded at T.T.G. Studios, in HollywoodCalifornia, a different take of the song was originally recorded at Scepter Studios in New York City. This take of the song is slightly shorter, the piano is less audible and instead of drums, a tambourine is employed. Also of note is that Reed sings "I'm waiting for the man" at the beginning of the song. Through the album version, Reed sings "I'm waiting for my man."

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Velvet Underground members Lou ReedJohn CaleNico, and Maureen Tucker have all recorded solo versions.

Other artists who have recorded covers of the song include:

Live covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Remixed forms and lyric usage[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • 2 Many DJs compilation album As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 uses the song's original recording in remixed form.
  • Death Cab for Cutie's lyric "To a brownstone, up three flights of stairs" in their song "No Joy in Mudville" is a direct, uncredited lift from "I'm Waiting For The Man".
  • The lyrics were used in the 2002 ballet by Édouard Lock and La La La Human Steps "Amelia" with completely different music by David Lang.
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