I'm Waiting for the Man

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"I'm Waiting for the Man"
I'm Waiting for the Man.jpg
1971 single b/w "There She Goes Again"
Song by The Velvet Underground
from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
  • March 12, 1967 (1967-03-12) (album)
  • October 1971 (single)
Recorded May 1966
Studio TTG Studios, Hollywood, California
Length 4:39
Label Verve
Songwriter(s) Lou Reed
Producer(s) Andy Warhol
Audio sample

"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 waiting on a streetcorner in Harlem, near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street, in New York City and purchasing $26 worth of heroin (equivalent to $191 in 2017), sung from the point of view of the purchaser, who has presumably traveled to Harlem from another part of the city; the "man" in the title is a drug dealer. Along with traditional guitars, 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 it into his solo live performances.

It was released as a single in October 1971 (with "There She Goes Again" on the B-side) as by Andy Warhol's Velvet Underground on MGM Records.[3]

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #159 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[4][5]

Alternative versions[edit]

Ludlow Street Loft, July 1965[edit]

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.[citation needed] It is available on the first disc of the Peel Slowly and See box set.

Scepter Studios, April 1966[edit]

Before the final album version of the song was recorded in May 1966, at T.T.G. Studios in Hollywood, a different take was recorded in April 1966 at Scepter Studios in Manhattan. The original Manhattan take 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; on the album version, Reed sings "I'm waiting for my man."


See also[edit]