John Cale on why The Velvet Underground’s ill-fated reunion was a ‘big disappointment’
John Cale was always focused on the future and refrained from going back to the past at almost every opportunity. While most artists of his age have become nostalgic, Cale still creates visionary art rather than living off his previous accomplishments. However, the Welsh musician departed from his ideal when The Velvet Underground reunited in 1990.
Theoretically, the Velvet Underground still has enough stock to add another impressive album to its collection and advance its story. When Cale signed on to the project, that’s exactly what he had in mind, but much to his dismay, it turned out to be a nostalgic tour that many on the outside thought was nothing more than a money-grabber. .
After two decades apart, Lou Reed and Cale rekindled their creative relationship after Andy Warhol’s death in 2007. After rekindling their friendship, the former Velvet Underground duo recorded Songs for Drella, which set in motion a full-blown reunion. In 1993, the news finally became official and The Velvet Underground embarked on a European tour, including a performance at The Pyramid Stage in Glastonbury.
Dates across Europe were to be the precursor to the world tour. However, this tour never took place due to tensions between the band. There was a power struggle between Cale and Reed who wanted The Velvet Underground to develop in different directions. They both ended up losing the fight and the group dispersed.
The ill-fated reunion remains a source of regret for Cale, who later on a 2013 Marc Maron podcast called the disappointing chapter of his career “a big disappointment.” said he “hated” the experience. “We could do whatever we wanted. We could stand on our heads,” Cale said regretfully.
“The way things developed was very natural and quite sweet,” Cale said. “[Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison would] come in and say, ‘Hey, we should do this song and we’ll do this song,’ and all those songs I didn’t know because they were written after I left.”
He continued, “Suddenly, this whole thing has become an exercise in bringing the catalog to life. And instead of doing something that everyone would look up to us and uphold the standards that we had.” At another point in the interview, Cale said in disappointment, “I hated it.”
Unfortunately, The Velvet Underground will never reunite except for a single performance in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sometimes it’s better to leave it all behind, and their boring reconciliation is a warning sign for other bands who are thinking about tarnishing their legacy in exchange for a hefty paycheck.
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